Wade eventually gets his way after early struggles
The Wade of the World
By Brad Friedman
MIAMI, June 18 -- After a 42-point performance in Game 3 and a 36-point effort in Game 4, Mavs coach Avery Johnson identified Dwyane Wade's success as a big problem for Dallas.
In Game 5, Johnson's adjustments weren't enough to provide the Mavericks with a solution.
Wade shook off 3-of-13 shooting in the first half to score a playoff career-high 43 points in Miami's 101-100 victory, converting a basket to force overtime as well as the game-winning free throws.
Before intermission, the Second Team All-NBA guard struggled against the Mavs' swarming defense, which made quick rotations defensively when Wade tried to beat his defender off the dribble. Unlike Thursday night's performance, when Wade scored 23 of his points on pull-up and standstill jump shots, his perimeter game abandoned him in the first half of Game 5, as he made just 1-of-5 of his shots from 15 feet or beyond.
But Wade's ability to slash made him impossible to contain for the entire game. Wade sunk a Finals record 21 free throws on 25 attempts as he "tried to get to the hole more."
"They were trying to not let me get there," he said. "You saw the segment, it was four hard fouls in a row. It got me into a flow and got me kind of mad at the same time."
Despite a defense geared to contain him, Wade got to the basket for a pull-up bank shot with 2.8 seconds remaining to force overtime. In the extra session, Wade hit the game-winning free throws after snaking his way through four defenders along the right side and drawing a foul from Dirk Nowitzki with 1.9 seconds remaining.
"Obviously the important thing for us was to get him the ball," said Pat Riley on the play drawn up for Wade on the Heat's final possession. "We did not have a second option, believe me."
In the waning moments, there wasn't a person in AmericanAirlines Arena who didn't know the ball was going to Wade, who had 17 points in the fourth quarter. He's been a thorn in the Mavericks' side throughout the series, and the Heat's most significant factor in all three of Miami's wins.
"Wade has hurt us in the worst way," Johnson said following Game 4. "We haven't been able to guard him. So we have two days now to go back and take a look at it. Just as much as Shaquille O'Neal deserves a double team, we haven't found the right solution to deal with Wade yet, offensively or defensively. So that's an even bigger problem."
For much of the second quarter, the Mavericks abandoned their double-team on O'Neal, giving Wade fewer opportunities for open looks. He shot just 1-of-8 in that quarter and looked nothing like the Wade of earlier in the series.
"I think they probably pressured me a little bit more, tried to get into my airspace a little bit more, make it hard on me," Wade said.
Added Riley: "Their defense was I think geared to him. He was 3-for-13 in the first half. He was having a hard time finding spaces and gaps."
The Heat coach countered that dilemma with an offensive set designed to open up the floor more for Wade and allow him to find his teammates on feeds if he was contained. Wade's confidence never let up, and he kept attacking in the second half.
"You have to have will, strong will in this game, if you want to get to where you've got to get to," Wade said. "They put the ball in my hands, so they expect a lot out of me, so I have to come through."
Wade came through not only with a field goal to help send the contest into overtime but both of his free throws at the end of overtime. Riley said it was just what Wade's all about.
"I think his percentage in the last eight or nine minutes of the game or last five minutes of the game is up in the 90s, so he's a winner," Riley said.
As for O'Neal, he simply expressed what a lot of people have been thinking.
"He's the best right now and that's all you can say," O'Neal said. "He's the best."
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