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.

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