Wade sparks Heat
First off, one thing should be made clear: The Heat require a determined collective effort in order to beat the superior Sixers in a match, let alone a best-of-seven series. And yesterday, it was what they showed; they were especially active on defense, relying on constant movement and physicality to disrupt rhythm, close passing and driving lanes, and contest shots. The result was a Game Two win in which they limited the competition to 19.4% shooting from three-point territory and 41.7% overall.
That said, the Heat would most decidedly not have prevailed had prodigal son Dwyane Wade put up numbers that underscored both his experience and his pride. At 36 and two years removed from his last All- Star berth, he was seen to be, at best, a spark plug off the bench and a calming influence off the court. Yesterday, however, he proved he still had what it takes to make — or, to be more precise, be — the difference. In the second quarter, he presided over a run that turned a seven-point deficit into a seven-point advantage. And when the lead was threatened late, he highlighted his steadiness in the clutch.
Little wonder, then, that much of the post- mortem discussion was about Wade, and how he managed to guide the Heat to an unlikely victory. Parenthetically, it was also about All- Star sophomore Joel Embiid, whose absence the Sixers rued following the defeat. They had done extremely well while he recovered from a broken orbital bone, claiming all nine matches he missed to the extend a winning streak to 16. In the aftermath of their first loss since the middle of March, though, they talked about needing him back. And given his itch to burn rubber, he may well be on the court for Game Three.
Granted, the Sixers remain favored with or without Embiid on tap. Still, there can be no discounting the Heat, and especially in such a situation. If nothing else, they will play hard from opening tip to final buzzer. And assuming Wade has a few more vintage performances in store, they’ll be a difficult out. He has been there and done that, and he looks ready for the challenge.
ANTHONY L. CUAYCONG has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.