NEW YORK – With a Miami-Cleveland first-round series inching closer, the Heat will lean on Dwyane Wade, right? Just have him download Cleveland’s playbook to give them an edge.
They could. … but Wade is not sure it will make a difference.
“What does it matter?” Wade said following today’s shootaround in preparation for tonight’s game against the Knicks. “The playbook for the Cavaliers is LeBron James, and then everything else. So no one has been able to download him for 15 years. Obviously, teams have beaten him, greater teams from the standpoint of what Golden State has been able to do. … San Antonio at a certain time. But no one has been able to download LeBron.”
The No. 6 Heat (43-36) and No. 3 Cavaliers (49-30) will face each other if both take care of their business over their final three games. Entering Friday, Miami is one game ahead of Washington and Milwaukee with the tiebreaker on both teams. The Cavaliers are a half-game ahead of the 76ers entering their big game Friday in Philadelphia. The Cavs can virtually secure that spot with a win, which would give then a 1.5 game lead and the tiebreaker over Philadelphia. If the Sixers win, then they still might have to win their final three games to hold onto No. 3.
The Cavaliers have won 2 of 3 in the series this season, taking the first two games in Cleveland before the Heat rolled the Cavs, 98-79, last month in Miami.
“Whoever we get I’m good with that,” Goran Dragic said. “If that’s Cleveland, yeah, why not. It’s going to be a good game for the fans. The fans are going to be really into it. It’s going to be fun games.”
Yeah, but Wade vs. LeBron would be juicy and the biggest storyline of the postseason. Best friends and two future Hall of Famers who teamed to bring the Heat two titles, separated for three years, got back together this year in Cleveland before that didn’t work out and Wade was traded to Miami in February.
“If you’re playing the Cavaliers in the first round, it’s going to be a heck of a first round of trying to beat those guys,” Wade said. “LeBron has been in the Finals every year, it seems like now. It would definitely, from a competitive standpoint, from a fan standpoint, it definitely would be something great that everybody would get into and watch.
“For us, we would have our work cut out for us, just like any team that would face the Cleveland Cavaliers. So, it definitely would be a tough series from that standpoint of preparing for them. I would love to see how we would respond to the challenge. … For me it would be more so thinking about what we have to do to try to limit the greatest player in the game and arguably one of the greatest of all time and try to come out (of) the David-vs.-Goliath situation and how we can come out with a win of the series.”
Wade, though, does not believe his friendship would be tested if he and James met in an emotional postseason series.
“First of all, LeBron goes dark on everybody, so, I won’t even be worried about communicating until the challenge is over or until after the Finals are over, whatever the case may be,” Wade said. “So it’s not a concern from an emotional standpoint. I mean we’re friends. We have a great relationship, but when the playoffs come and games come, especially playoffs, it’s very different than the regular season. Everyone is locked in to what they have to do to make sure that their team can be successful and then moving on to the next round.”
Heat forward Udonis Haslem also remains close with James. Haslem is in his 15th season with the Heat and was part of those four years of the Big Three of Wade, James and Chris Bosh that played in four consecutive Finals.
Haslem believes if the Heat are going to advance in the postseason they eventually will have to go through the Cavaliers, who have been to three straight Finals, winning the title in 2016.
“We always have those memories,” Haslem said. “He’s the ultimate competitor and it would be great to see him compete against my guys.
“At some point, you have to go through the best, regardless of whatever your path is. Whether we have to play him in the second, third round, whatever the situation may be. To be the Eastern Conference champs and get to the Finals we have to go through the best.”