It was a situation with which Dwyane Wade had extremely familiarity. With the game tied and the Heat gaining possession of the ball for one final play, he proceeded to dribble to the frontcourt and organize the offense. Isolated against the Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell, he made his move with six ticks left on the clock, seeming to head to a screen set by Kelly Olynyk, only to move away with a deft crossover that gave him an open lane. There was one problem; Rudy Gobert, arguably the National Basketball Association’s premier rim protector, lay in wait. Still, he didn’t hesitate; confident he could again do what he did a minute and a half earlier, he drove straight to the rim.
As things turned out, Wade didn’t get another layup. In fact, he missed, with his twisting bank shot winding up short. What he did get, however, was a whistle; Gobert fouled him on a block attempt that looked clean in real time, but, as replay from a vantage point under the basket showed, drew contact off a downward swiping motion. Naturally, he made his charities to claim the win for the Heat, highlighting a vintage endgame performance that offset a sluggish start; he may have been an errant four of 15 from the field all told, but he proved outstanding with the outcome on the line, coming up with seven markers and three dimes in the payoff period.
Considering how the Heat have been far from competitive of late, it’s fair to say they needed the victory; Wade’s exertions couldn’t have come at a better time. They’re beset by injuries and bogged down by a glaring lack of consistency. And so anxious are they to turn their fortunes around that they’re willing to get an edge anywhere they can. For instance, they seem to have chucked the use of the highly regarded Miami Vice retro jersey because of their inability to win while donned in it. And, in the same context, it was but natural for them to turn to him in the crunch.
Certainly, Wade is in the process of winding down his career, with the current season likely his last. It isn’t simply that he’s past his prime. More crucially, it’s that his priorities have changed. For as long as he’s around, though, the Heat will keep turning to him. And, even as he’s pacing himself, he can be counted on to deliver.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.