The Miami Heat season has been over for nearly two weeks now, and while it's somewhat refreshing to be able to watch playoff basketball without the stress and accompanying gobs of sweat that ruin your Heat "shirtseys", it's hard not to look back and appreciate how good Dwyane Wade was this postseason.
Wade played in 74 regular season games, his highest total since 2010-2011 and while you'd assume his shouldering of the load started from the point where Miami lost Chris Bosh, you'd be slightly mistaken. Wade's usage rate actually went down ever so slightly after the All-Star break, with Goran Dragic, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside seeing upticks in scoring while the addition of Joe Johnson allowed Miami to further spread the wealth. Wade was steady throughout the year with similar rebounding and assist numbers to his career norms, but he had a career low 51.7 true-shooting percentage (accounting for threes and free throws).
Through two postseason games, this trend of balanced scoring held suit, with Miami breaking franchise records and winning comfortably against the Charlotte Hornets. After an efficient 28 point Game 2 however, Wade had two poor games in a row, scoring a total of 29 points on 35.5% shooting and the grind-it-out postseason truly began for Miami. It wasn't terribly shocking for Wade to struggle a bit here and there. He remains a top NBA guard, but sustaining excellence becomes more trying with age and there will be inevitable ebbs and flows.
Then, as Father Time crept and Miami's postseason hopes were fading, Wade punched him in his bearded face.
Seven of Wade's last 10 postseason games featured him scoring 20+ points. It's hard to argue against nationally depantsing "Purple Shirt Man" as being the most iconic game within that stretch because it featured something so extraordinary in the form of the Wade three-point game making its triumphant return. I wrote about Wade doing a similar song-and-dance during the 2014 postseason, but for his career, Wade is one of the worst three-point shooters in NBA history (min: 1000 attempts). This season, he was only 7-44 and had not made a three since December of 2015.
So when Miami blew most of a 13-point halftime lead and was fighting off a rising home Charlotte team, Wade rose for his first and second threes of the game and many "no no no... YES" moments would fill many Heat-supporting living rooms. Wade would score 10 of Miami's 23 fourth quarter points, and it felt like a hierarchy had been established.
Against Toronto, Wade had his share of help in some games, but in others, felt like a one-man army. He would string together back-to-back 30 point games for the first time since March of 2015, with the Game 4 loss featuring a 38 point, 4-6 shooting from three(!), game that was all the more necessary when Whiteside was lost on what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury. After every big game, I couldn't help but wonder "how long can he sustain this?"
Well, that bearded jerk is unfortunately undefeated and in Wade's last two games, he fell back down to earth a bit. Though bolstered by Dragic scoring 30 in Game 6, neither of them had enough gas to lift Miami in Game 7 and Miami's postseason hopes faded.
For many fans, the initial disappointment was followed by a respect for what Wade and the mix of youth and veterans accomplished. Against elite playoff defenses, Wade imposed his will and dragged his depleted team as far as he could and showed why he is still an NBA All-Star and all-time great shooting guard. Much was made of Miami's regular season muddled hierarchy as Wade, Bosh, Dragic, and Whiteside seemingly took turns looking like the best player on the court, but in playoff time it became obvious and necessary for Wade to take control.
While I am a firm proponent of simple basketball math (ANALYTICS! OOGA BOOGA!) and that a Wade jumpshot wasn't necessarily the most efficient look for Miami this season, sometimes you just can't explain an all-time great making timely threes and difficult turnarounds when your team needs it most.
You just appreciate it.