About Last Night

About Last Night: Farewells and finales

Wade, Dirk and Lawler say goodbye, as some wild finishes finalize playoff bracket

A recent NBA TV feature highlighted how Dwyane Wade’s career began and repeatedly crossed with fellow superstars from his generation. Those same legends made sure not to miss the Heat guard’s last game in the NBA.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony all attended Wade’s last dance in Brooklyn, where the Miami icon produced a memorable finale: 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in front of an audience that cheered his every move. As fate would have it, the assist that completed his fifth career triple-double came on a mid-range jumper from longtime teammate Udonis Haslem, who like Wade began his career with Miami in 2003.

The nostalgia overflowed in the presence of the complete “banana boat” crew, each of whom embraced and congratulated Wade on a Hall-of-Fame career that began in 2003. James pulled off a specifically memorable stunt by duplicating his 2013 video bomb when he and Wade were teammates in Miami.

“We have a brotherhood that’s just so much more than basketball,” James said during the game.

Yet it was with the ball itself that Wade spent his final possession of professional sports. He didn’t shoot, pass or drive. He merely dribbled down the shot clock before tossing the ball to the official, choosing to end his last touch on the same terms as his last season: his own.

“These 16 years have been way more than I could have imagined,” Wade reflected. “It’s been a lot of trials. It’s been a lot of tribulations. It’s been a lot of joy… I’m just thankful. Hopefully, through my career, I inspired somebody else to go and do something that other people say they can’t do.”

Dirk’s swan song

After serving as San Antonio’s nemesis for over two decades, Dirk Nowitzki was unable to hold back his emotions at the career-capturing tribute shown by the Spurs before his own final curtain.

The tears and bittersweetness were undoubtedly fresh for Nowitzki, who only just announced his official intent to retire 24 hours earlier. He followed that tender moment with a vintage double-double: 20 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes of action. His final basket came with under a minute remaining on an iconic fallaway from the high post.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who spent over 20 years game-planning to stop that nearly unguardable shot, unabashedly yelled at Drew Eubanks to let Nowitzki have that final attempt. Luckily, Eubanks’ defense affected Nowitzki about as much as any other over his career.

As raw as his final game must have felt, Nowitzki seemed at peace once the final buzzer sounded.

“I’m kind of relieved it’s over,” Nowitzki said after the game. “I can rest now and enjoy some wine and some food.”

Cheers, Dirk.

Lawler’s last call

Another legend bid farewell to the NBA on Wednesday, one who mastered the microphone rather than the ball itself. Ralph Lawler, the newly minted Hall of Fame broadcaster for the LA Clippers, polished off his 40th and final regular season on media row in the Clippers’ 143-137 overtime win against Utah. He did so alongside former Clippers player and commentator Bill Walton.

Lawler’s positive demeanor never faltered during lean times with the Clippers franchise. And when L.A. surged, Lawler’s iconic play calls punctuated the high points.

NBA highlights will lose a piece of themselves when “Bingo!”, “The Lob! The Jam!” and “Oh me, oh my!” are no longer part of them. In an industry where local icons are few and far between, Lawler is among the best.

Portland’s ‘playoff’ rotation

NBA coaches normally trim down the number of players used in the postseason. Every possession matters, making experimentation an unaffordable venture.

The Blazers provided a regular season preview of that aspect in Game No. 82, albeit in a fashion none expected. With playoff seeding still very much up for grabs, coach Terry Stotts opted to play just six players — including three all 48 minutes. Those three: Jake Layman, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr.

Only one reserve (Zach Collins) saw playing time, and just 13 minutes at that. Against all odds, the unusual strategy paid off in the form of a 28-point comeback. Simons, who had scored 38 total points in his NBA career, nearly doubled that with a game-high 37.

Who knows? With CJ McCollum tip-toeing his way back from injury and Jusuf Nurkic out for the playoffs, Stotts may just allow himself to throw one of those guys into the postseason fire.

Walker’s walk-off?

This season highlighted more than any other Kemba Walker’s ties to Charlotte. The only Hornets-drafted All-Star since Baron Davis, Walker started in and hosted the 2019 All-Star Game. On Wednesday, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer poured in 46 points in a last-ditch effort to sneak Charlotte into the playoffs.

Detroit’s victory at Orlando prevented that, leaving Walker with just two postseason appearances in his eight seasons with the Hornets. Coming off a career year in which he averaged 25.4 points per game, Walker is now an unrestricted free agent.

The two-time All-Star will draw significant interest from a handful of teams boasting enough cap space to sign him. Charlotte faces the ultimate conundrum: keep its star at a price that will all but lock them into a subpar cast around Walker, or let him walk and attempt to rebuild in his wake.

Whatever happens, there is no doubt that Walker will go down as one of the best to ever don the purple and teal.

Prison Frank

This is a reference to Frank Kaminsky’s shoes, which honored the “Prison Mike” edition of Michael Scott from “The Office,” as well as assistant to the regional manager Dwight K. Schrute.

Oh yeah…