After LeBron James announced his decision to sign with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, there was some debate about whose team it was going to be.
Would the team leader be LeBron or all-star guard Dwyane Wade?
The answer to that has been made pretty clear.
This is LeBron’s team now.
But on occasion, Wade is still the man, and one of those occasions was Sunday evening when the Cleveland Cavaliers visited AmericanAirlines Arena.
After building a 22-point lead early in the third quarter, the Heat found themselves down by eight points midway through the final period.
That’s when Wade took over.
His fadeaway jumper with 4:50 left in the game started the Heat on an 11-2 run that turned a 97-89 deficit into a 100-99 lead with 2:43 remaining. Including the initial basket that started the surge, Wade accounted for all but two of the points and also had a blocked shot during the run.
The Cavs got the lead back on Dion Waiters’ 20-footer with 1:57 left, but after each team had a scoreless possession, Wade, who had gotten the rebound at the other end of the court, got the ball to an open Shane Battier in the corner for a 3-pointer that gave the Heat the lead for good at 103-101.
Then, after rebounding Kyrie Irving’s missed jumper, Wade then punctuated the comeback by getting around his defender and driving the lane for a resounding dunk that made it a four-point game with only 24.4 seconds remaining.
For the quarter, Wade had 15 of his 24 points while going 7 of 10 from the field, grabbed three rebounds, handed out two assists, and blocked one shot as the Heat won 109-105.
Coach Erik Spoelstra called Wade’s play “symbolic of how he’s playing the season. He’s getting stronger as the season is going on.”
Said Wade: “It’s all about making a play, doing something to get yourself into it. When it gets to winter time, any way, if you’re a competitor you have another gear. Sometimes that gear runs out. Sometimes you can keep going. Tonight I got it going at the right time.”
Wade’s outburst came at a time you might least expect it. The Heat was playing for the fourth game in five days with the first three on the road. (They won them all, stretching their winning streak to 11 games.)
Even though the last game was at home, Wade would seem to be one of the last players you would think would thrive under such circumstances, especially considering the foot and knee injuries he had to cope with early in the season. Wade, who had offseason knee surgery, has missed four games because of health reasons.
But over the last month he has had some huge games.
The night before his 15-point fourth quarter against the Cavs, he scored 33 points in the Heat’s win at Philadelphia. He had 30 against the Los Angeles Lakers and 31 against the Houston Rockets before the All-Star break.
It’s a resounding reply to critics who have questioned whether with his age (31) and health issues Wade is up to the task of teaming with James to get the Heat a second consecutive NBA title.
“I deal with it,” Wade said of the criticism he has received this season. “We all deal with something here individually at times.
“So it was my turn to deal with something. That’s fine. The biggest thing is how do you respond. When you fall, how do you get back up? And, you know, I responded.”