Dwyane Wade arrived at postgame interviews on Friday night and joined Goran Dragic at the table with a friendly nudge on the shoulder and a smile.
Could that sentiment signal a handing-off-of-the-keys from the former NBA Finals MVP and three-time world champion to the guard in his second season with the Miami Heat?
Wade has had an amazing postseason, averaging 21.8 points per game, but there was something special about the Miami Heat’s game six win in Miami to force a deciding showdown in Toronto.
That something special was Dragic’s dominance.
Dragic’s explosive drives equated to 19 points for the guard by halftime. Anytime the Toronto Raptors looked to close the gap, it was Dragic, not Wade, silencing its rallies.
That was until the fourth quarter. Wade, the Heat’s historical closer, missed four straight jump shots and committed a turnover to open the final frame. The Raptors roared back when teh shooting guard attempted to orchestrate an offence that had been impressively driven by Dragic for three quarters. Wade finished with eight points in the quarter, but it was his foresight, basketball intelligence, and most importantly his humility that proved pivotal.
The Raptors had closed a gap, which had reached as many as 15 points behind Dragic, to just six points behind Wade. He witnessed the quick collapse and handed the ball of to Dragic as the two worked in tandem to secure the victory, slicing through the paint and finding open shooters, but remembering to keep their respective shooting strokes.
“Just instinct,” Dragic said after the game when asked about leading the fourth-quarter offence. “Who’s going to have the ball. Who is going to attack. Defensively we feel like we defend really well. Kyle (Lowry) made some tough shots, but still I think we limited everybody else, especially in that fourth quarter. (Dwyane) Wade did his thing in the crucial time. He was making some big plays and defensively we were just focused. First time this series we scored over 100 points, so it is a good time.”
Dragic led the Heat with 30 points Friday, while Wade netted 22 points. Dragic also led the Heat to its 102-96 win in Game 1 at Toronto with 26 points, while Wade scored 24 points. In fact, Dragic has been the Heat’s leading scorer in each of the three games in which the team scored 100 points or more this postseason. Those games have all been playoff victories. During the regular season, Wade led the Heat in scoring 11 times in 35 wins when it scored 100 points or more.
“It’s different than a normal game,” Wade said after the outing. “It’s not a game one, when you got game two the next day. Game seven is really – you have to keep playing or the season is over. That’s the reality of it. You have to give a little more, you have to go a little more. Obviously it’s a great environment to be in. For us and for Toronto to be able to put ourselves in a position to get to this game seven, it’s phenomenal. You have to give everything you have. There is not tomorrow from that standpoint of that series. That’s the way we approach it. I think it’s going to be two teams trying to give everything they have and the best team win.”
What will happen in game seven, as Raptors coach Dwane Casey tries to adjust to Erik Spoelstra’s smaller lineup? Is it possible for the a man with three rings and 165 postseason games under his belt to defer to a newcomer (not named LeBron James) with just 13 career playoff starts when the pressure and stage of a game seven is so blinding?
If the Heat wants to win a date with James for a trip to the NBA Finals, that answer will almost have to be yes.