Everywhere Dwyane Wade turned, two Boston Celtics seemed to be waiting.
And as long as Chris Bosh is out, Wade understands it’s probably going to stay that way. The Celtics can double-team him without fear, knowing LeBron James is the only other Miami player who can consistently hurt them.
Wade scored only 18 points Friday in the Heat’s 101-91 loss in Game 3, snapping his streak of 12 straight 20-point playoff games against Boston that was the longest since Jerry West had 18 in a row from 1966-69.
Wade isn’t expecting Bosh back from his lower abdominal strain today in Game 4 (5:30 p.m., ESPN) so the scheme probably won’t change. But he vows that his performance will.
“I’m not coming here crying,” Wade said Saturday. “I can score the basketball, I’ve just got to find other ways to do that. It might not be a 41-point effort like it was in Indiana, you never know what each game takes, but I’m just going to go out here and play the game that I played for so many years and I will find a way to be effective.”
Wade’s 18 points on 9-of-20 shooting was his second-lowest scoring performance of this postseason, after a five-point effort in Game 3 of the second round against Indiana. He was struggling with knee pain then, but insisted there was nothing wrong physically now.
The only problem, he said, was the two defenders closing on him whenever he came off a pick or caught the ball anywhere near the lane. He was also largely contained in Game 2, managing only 15 points in regulation before scoring eight in overtime to help the Heat pull out a 115-111 victory.
“As a team, we have to figure out ways to exploit the double-team,” James said.
Wade didn’t attempt a free throw for the first time in a playoff game since 2004, when he was a rookie, and managed just six points on 3-of-9 shooting in the first half. Still, he was far from the only problem for the Heat.
“You look at all the effort areas we dominated the first two games, we got our butt kicked in all of them last night,” said coach Erik Spoelstra.
“Points in the paint, they pounded us. Rebounding, they pounded us. Free throws, they beat us. Layup attempts, they beat us. Every area that has to do with toughness and effort we lost.”
BATTIER’S A BELIEVER
After a decade in the NBA, Shane Battier blew it off as mere bluster, the notion of the Eastern Conference being more physical.
“I didn’t think it was real,” said the Miami Heat small forward.
But now, after six months in the East following 10 seasons in the Western Conference with the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets?
“Yeah,” he said. “It’s real.It’s much more of a physical tempo. I guess ‘tempo’ is the right word,” he said. “In the Western Conference, it’s much more free-flowing. The philosophies are more open, so, as a result, I think there’s less physical play.”
Battier acknowledged he was among those to scoff at the eastern bravado.
“We always thought the Eastern Conference weren’t basketball players,” he said with a hearty laugh. “We thought they were just thugs, unskilled thugs.”
“Of course now, the tables are turned.”