When he wasn’t missing 28 games for health and maintenance reasons, Dwyane Wade achieved the nifty feat this season of equaling the highest shooting percentage by an NBA starting two-guard in 35 years, better than Michael Jordan ever shot in a single season.
And now that the games are more meaningful, Wade is at it again, performing at an exceptional level of offensive efficiency.
Heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday, Wade has scored 28, 27 and 23 points in the Heat’s past three outings --- his highest-scoring three-game run since mid-December.
But what’s most impressive is how efficiently Wade is doing it: He’s shooting 32 for 52 over that stretch (61.5 percent), including 22 for 34 in the first two games against Indiana.
He’s doing it by consistently finishing at the basket, by displaying polish and precision in his mid-range game and by being resourceful and creative --- including a Game 2 sequence when he lofted a shot so high over Roy Hibbert, hoping to keep it from being blocked, that it seemingly kissed the ceiling of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“I did that a couple times in practice and everybody looked at me crazy when I did it,” Wade said Thursday, smiling. “They’re like, ‘Take game shots.’ I’m like, ‘This is a game shot.’ I know who we’re about to play against. It felt good for that one to go in.”
Wade is shooting 53.1 percent this postseason, which happens to be the best Jordan ever shot in a single playoffs (1988). That’s higher than Wade shot in his first three postseasons playing alongside LeBron James: 48.5, 46.2 and 45.7 last year, when he was slowed by a knee injury.
Since 2000, only two starting shooting guards whose teams advanced past the second round have shot better than 50 percent over an entire postseason: Phoenix’s Jason Richardson in 2010 (50.2 percent) and San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili in 2005 (50.7 percent).
A pair of shooting guards still playing have done it so far in these playoffs: Wade and the Spurs’ Danny Green (54.4 percent).
This isn’t surprising considering Wade has led all NBA shooting guards in field-goal percentage five of the past six seasons. His 54.5 percent accuracy this season tied Otis Birdsong for the highest by a starting shooting guard since the NBA implemented the three-point shot in 1979.
Wade cites health as a big reason.
“I love to play with a free mind,” he said. “When I feel good, when my mind is in the right place, I can pull things out of a hat that I’ve worked on before. I’m not robotical and mechanical.
“When you’re not feeling healthy, you go to what doesn’t hurt and you kind of become robotical in a sense. It feels good to be able to go to whatever is in the repertoire and bring it out.”
This postseason, Wade has been excellent in transition, hitting 13 of 15 shots. He’s shooting 76.3 percent at the rim, an increase from 71 percent during the regular season.
On shots from 5 to 9 feet, Wade is 20 for 32 (62.5 percent) --- well above his 50 percent accuracy from that range during the regular season, according to NBA.com. Among players with at least 15 shot attempts this postseason, only James has shot better from that range (10 for 15, 66.7 percent).
Wade had displayed a diverse arsenal in that range: runners, floaters, post-ups, a hook shot (he’s 2 for 2) and pull-up jumpers. He has worked vigorously to polish everything in his mid-range game.
“It’s been a big part of his reinvention,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Thursday.
During these playoffs, Wade has shot just 40 percent on attempts ranging from 10 feet away from the basket to just in front of the three-point line. But he has kept his shooting percentage high by launching only seven three-pointers (two makes) and taking about half his shots --- 81 of 160 --- within 10 feet of the basket.
Wade sat out 28 games this season, 13 for reasons the Heat attributed to “rest,” and that approach has benefited him.
“It was very frustrating for him, for us as a team,” James said of Wade missing so many games. “But we knew ultimately what it was about. We’re happy he’s playing some of the best basketball he’s played in the past couple of years.”
Wade, who had OssaTron shockwave knee treatment last summer, said Thursday that his maintenance program “wasn’t to keep me fresh for the playoffs. When you have a situation where you're lucky enough to play to the end of June, you get two months off at best.
“A lot of guys in the NBA have five, six months to rest when they're coming off an injury. I had two months. So instead of coming back into the season saying, ‘We’re going to wait until January before we get on the court,’ we came up with our plan.”
And that approach has been a success, right? “So far,” Wade said.
MORE HEAT NUGGETS
Spoelstra’s willingness to accept input from players became a talking point after practice Thursday, two days after James’ suggestion to have Norris Cole defend Lance Stephenson paid dividends in the fourth quarter of Game 2.
“Whatever it takes,” Spoelstra said. “It’s being made a little bit more than it is, but I’ll go along with it. It happens all the time. It wasn’t as major as people are making it out to be.”
But players say Spoelstra’s openness to their ideas is appreciated.
“In certain moments he trusts us to come up with what we feel is best,” Wade said Thursday. “…We wouldn’t be champions if we didn’t have it. We wouldn’t be the team we are today if we didn’t have the trust from both sides to understand we don’t have all the answers, they don’t have all the answers. We’re figuring it all out together. A lot of it is on the fly at times.”
James said he is “usually the culprit of putting guys in a position of where I want them to be defensively. Spo has allowed me, D-Wade, [Udonis Haslem] …. to make in-game adjustments.”
Chris Bosh said he, too, has made suggestions “plenty of times. It doesn’t mean we always use it.”
Of James’ recommendation to put Cole on Stephenson in the fourth quarter of Game 2, Spoelstra pointed out that Cole handled that assignment at times in Game 1 and earlier in Game 2.
“They wanted to make a change,” Spoelstra said. “I’m fine with it. As long as it’s not something crazy, then I’m always fine with looking at something for a possession that they feel comfortable with. If we need to make a change from there, we will. Those guys have a feel for what’s going on, on the court, even more so than us because they’re out there experiencing it.”
### Forward Paul George, who suffered what the Pacers believe was a concussion after his head collided with Wade’s knee in Game 2, did not participate in practice Thursday but did some light shooting and dunked.
George went through several steps of the NBA-mandated concussion protocol but Pacers coach Frank Vogel said his status for Game 3 on Saturday might remain undetermined until the day of the game.
Vogel said he has "no clue" if George will be available Saturday. James said he expects George will play.
### James, on Cleveland winning the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery: “I heard about it, but I don’t really have thoughts about it. I’m in the middle of conference finals. I don’t worry about draft lotteries. That’s the last thing on my mind.”
### James, on Charles Barkley saying Heat fans are not real fans: “I don’t have a comment about that. Cleveland has great fans. Miami has great fans.”
### James asserted the Heat is “not the most talented team in the NBA” but declined to say which team is.
“We have very, very high IQ basketball players,” James said. “I think IQ is more important than talent when it comes to the league.”
### James said he would need time to "digest" Mark Cuban's latest comments about race and society before commenting about them. (We're not reprinting all of Cuban's comments here, but see ESPN or the Internet for details!)
### Spoelstra said Greg Oden, working his way back from back spasms, had “a great day of work yesterday and today” and will be re-evaluated Friday.
### Cornerback Larry Hope and walk-on quarterback Garrison Lassiter are off UM's roster. Lassiter, clearly, was never going to play.
Hope worked with the starters early this spring but since had fallen well down on the depth chart, behind Tracy Howard, Ladarius Gunter, Artie Burns, Antonio Crawford, Corn Elder, Nate Dortch and probably behind freshman Ryan Mayes, who impressed the coaching staff this spring.
### UM basketball has been in the mix for three transfers this offseason. They've missed out on all three, including Campbell center Darius Leonard, who said he's opting instead for Wake Forest (which is closer to his hometown of Raleigh).
### Please see the last post for an update on the UM/David Beckham stadium situation.