Posted Apr 22 2011 7:17AM
PHILADELPHIA -- It is too bad, for the Sixers, for anyone who wanted some drama in this series, that Dwyane Wade went from getting headaches to giving them.
To paraphrase a classic song: He can see clearly now, the pain is gone.
In a brilliant performance that conjured up images of his 2006 NBA Finals, the freeze-frame moment for Wade and the series came in the fourth quarter of Game 3. Miami up six. LeBron James miss. Ball bounces high off the rim. Wade bounces high off the floor.
With a grab and a powerful dunk, Wade essentially slammed any notion that the Sixers or his own physical hiccups will shut him down anytime soon. If ever. After spending Game 1 dealing with the initial stages of migraine symptoms, then Game 2 rusty from missing practice, Wade stepped out of his fog and Miami can now visualize the East semifinals in the distance.
There wasn't a spot on the Wells Fargo Center court that he didn't cover in the 100-94 win. He scored 32 points, after scoring a combined 31 the first two games, some from mid-range, but also by challenging the Sixers inside and putting his body at risk. Six of his 10 rebounds were offensive as the Heat loaded up on second helpings. And he came two assists shy of a triple-double.
"Dwyane Wade can get a shot anytime he wants to," said Sixers coach Doug Collins.
What we know, aside from the fact the Sixers are one game from elimination, is that Wade is a tough man to bring down.
"He's resilient," said coach Erik Spoelstra. "He plays through pain as well as anyone."
If there was any doubt, witness what happened when Wade fell hard to the floor in the first half, right on his shoulder. He grimaced, rose slowly and kept holding his arm. Strangely, the Heat never signaled for the trainer. It was almost as if they knew Wade was OK. And he didn't ask for the trainer, either.
"He'll probably feel that tomorrow," said Spoelstra.
Yeah. Tomorrow. Not during the game. Not in the second half, when Wade kept a struggling Heat team from drifting away, when he prevented the Sixers from building any momentum.
"The minute you let your guard down, he'll light a fire under himself and get it going," said Chris Bosh. "He had it going. He was just making the right plays all night."
Actually, Wade seemed determined to make the night his night, as if he had to make up for the previous two games. He played the decoy in those games, passing the ball, making sure to get Bosh involved, feeding LeBron on the break. But also because he had little choice but play a supporting role. The energy and the timing just wasn't there.
"I felt a lot better," he said. "My body felt better and I think my teammates could see it. I looked forward to it because I wasn't my regular self before."
Whenever Wade plays, you're not sure whether to exhale, not only because he can steal your breath with his speed downcourt and ability to improvise, but because he always seems to be an injury risk. The crash-landing on his shoulder only enhanced that reputation. But as usual, Wade simply brushed it aside.
"I've had shoulder surgery before," he said. "When I get hit a certain way it hurts. It didn't affect me in the second half. I'll just get treatment and I'll be fine."
The bigger issue is the migraines. That's not something Wade can simply ignore. It's very real, and painful, and limiting. And there's no telling when the next one's coming. All Wade can do is hope he has reached his quota of headaches for 2010-11.
"You just enjoy the days when you don't have them," he said. "Hopefully I won't have any episodes anytime soon. It's not pleasant, but you have to deal with it."
What Wade and the Heat need right now is rest and recovery. Not because they're wounded, but because the only roadblock in their way, at the moment, is the possibility of injury. The Sixers certainly aren't providing much of a challenge; Miami took their best shot in Game 3 and swatted it aside.
The next round looks like a matchup with the Celtics, who gave Miami fits this season and will likely have a healthy Shaquille O'Neal. And if Miami survives that series, there's a possible East final with the Bulls, who most certainly aren't the Sixers.
The good news for Miami is Wade left the floor upright after Game 3 and his head is clear. He's finally feeling good about himself, and so too are the Heat.
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