Dwyane Wade said that he decided to play in the Miami Heat's season finale April 17 because he wanted to continue getting his wind after recently missing six games. If anyone doubted whether he was healthy heading into the playoffs, the Heat's best player in franchise history proved those skeptics wrong. Wade played 23 efficient, effective minutes Wednesday night to lead the Heat in a 105-93 win over the Orlando Magic. Miami finished the season with a franchise-best 66-16 record.
In a rather meaningless regular season game, Wade's play stood as the best sign. He was athletic and explosive, exploiting defenders in post-up situations and driving into the paint and finding creases in the defense. The two-time NBA champion scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half, going 9-of-15 from the field in total, dishing out 10 assists and blocking two shots (including one shot from 7-footer Nik Vucevic). He may be 31 years old, but Wade brought back some nostalgia from his peak days during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 campaigns with his control of Miami's offense. Although Miami won the championship last year with a less-than-100% Wade, having him healthy heading into the postseason will serve as a vital asset for the team.
Chris Bosh did not play, and LeBron James was away from the team attending to a personal matter. But Miami comfortably defeated the Magic despite Wade's low minute total and the absence of Bosh and James. The Heat played well with a skeleton crew tonight thanks in large part to the 3-point shot. Mike Miller made six 3-pointers, scoring 21 points and adding six assists. Miami's 27-game winning streak allowed Erik Spoelstra to play Miller more, and his impressive performances may merit him time consideration for the playoffs. Miller made a nice pass to Norris Cole on a fourth-quarter fast-break and even successfully completed a pick-and-roll play with Joel Anthony. He's looked so much better simply moving up and down the court than he did last year.
Rashard Lewis knocked down three triples for 16 points, and Ray Allen made two 3s and finished with 10 points. But the most surprising performance came from 40-year-old Juwan Howard. The 19-year NBA veteran scored 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and grabbed four rebounds in 17 minutes of action. He mostly scored when he rolled to the basket and found himself facing a smaller defender.
The Miami Heat will begin the 2013 playoffs Sunday against the Milwaukee Bucks.