MIAMI — Fresh off a five-day stretch between games, the Miami Heat beat the Toronto Raptors, 123-116, Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Dwyane Wade scored six of his season-high 35 points in the extra period, shooting 13 of 19 from the field as Miami erased a double-figure deficit.
“I felt good as the game went on,” Wade said in the locker room afterwards. “Early on it was rough because we hadn’t played in so long, had to get the lungs back. But as the game went on I felt pretty good.”
More importantly, for Wade, it’s another example of proving the doubters wrong.
After arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last July kept him out of the London Olympics, Wade’s play during the beginning of the 2012-13 season — his 10th in the league — triggered criticism from analysts.
Some, like Charles Barkley, thought Wade had lost some of his athleticism while posting numbers (20.8 pts., 4.7 rebs., 4.5 assts.) below his career averages (24.9 pts., 5.0 rebs., 6.1 assts.)
“I expect the same out of him,” Chris Bosh said after Wednesday’s game. “I really don’t look at surgeries. As soon as he comes back I’m thinking I’m ready for him. Of course it takes time to get rhythm back, but he’s a competitive guy. Once he gets his feet under him, it takes about 10 games, 12 games, usually; a couple weeks. Once he got that, our expectations for him were the same.”
Throughout the season, Wade has said he hoped to be 100 percent by the NBA All-Star weekend, which is Feb. 15-17 in Houston.
Asked whether he felt he was ahead of schedule, the now-31-year-old responded with this:
“Knock on wood, yes, I am. I’ve been ahead of schedule all year. Early on coming off of knee surgery, it was tough. Feel good some days, then didn’t. Right now it’s been consistent and I’ve been doing everything I can to make sure that my body is doing all the extra work that I need to do. Trying to make sure I give myself a chance.”
The nine-time All-Star followed up his performance against the Raptors with another retro-Wade one in a 110-88 rout over the Detroit Pistons Friday night. He scored 29 points and collected five rebounds with seven assists on 12-of-20 shooting.
Since posting just 17.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 rebounds over 10 November games, Wade has followed that up with 22.1/4.3/4.3 in December and 21.7/5.5/4.6 in January. Despite a rough-three game stretch (11, 11, 15) scoring-wise on the recent six-game road trip, he has 27 points-or-more in his past three games.
“I think I’ve been playing decent and certain games I can’t control how many attempts I get, but I try to make sure I can tell by my body how I move and how I’m feeling,” Wade said. “I think for awhile now I’ve been playing pretty good, and I just want to continue to get stronger for the second half of the season so the team can stay more consistent and have more games like this.”
That meant reaching the foul line a season-high 15 times — just his sixth in 36 games of at least double-digit attempts. His trademark pump-fake jumper, which he learned from former NBA player and Washington Wizards assistant Sam Cassell, continually fooled opponents.
His 40 minutes in the Toronto game were the second most he has played this season. On Jan. 2 against the Dallas Mavericks, he recorded 44:36 minutes played.
“He made it look easy, but he was in attack mode,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after Wednesday’s game. “I think he played his best, most active ball at the end. When guys started to get fatigued, he hit another gear.”
Not too shabby for a supposedly aging star losing his athleticism.