MIAMI – When Dwyane Wade hits the floor tonight it will be like he never left.
Wade’s first home playoff game with the Heat since leaving Miami and spending a season in Chicago and a half-season Cleveland, also is the Heat’s first home playoff game in that period with the Miami missing out on the postseason in Wade’s only full season not with the team.
But tonight’s Game 3 against Philadelphia (7 p.m.) will be special because Wade is coming off a 28-point performance that helped the Miami tie the series. Wade shot 11-of-16 as the Heat held off Philadelphia, 113-103.
Wade was all business on Wednesday, brushing off any talk of “encores” and dismissing trying to “prove” he can still play. For him, it is all about the next game, trying to get the next win, whatever that number at the end of his stat line reads.
“I’m not worried about encores,” he said. “I’ve had my day in the sun where I needed to show you all scoring 30 or 40 night-after-night. I did that, we won a championship. Right now, it’s just about being a leader and giving this team what they need on different nights.
“I’m done proving to people. I’m here for these guys, the individuals, for the city and this organization. So, I just want to have these moments for these guys when I can. And my ability to play the way I did last game depended on a lot of individuals on what they brought to the game.”
Wade then singled out Justise Winslow, James Johnson and Josh Richardson, presumably for their defense seeing they are the primary defenders on Sixers point guard Ben Simmons.
He said what they did “allowed me to score and make the plays I need to make. So, it’s not about Dwyane Wade having, whatever, whatever ‘vintage’ they want to use. It’s just me getting an opportunity, making the best of that opportunity in Game 2 and trying to figure out a way to help my team win.”
Wade hesitated before using the work “vintage” and asked why it was tough to say.
“It’s wasn’t tough,” he said. “I’ve just been hearing it since I was 28 years old. I’m 36.”
Wade’s wife, actress Gabrielle Union, took offense on social media to the terms “vintage” and “turn back the clock,” saying this is what her husband has been doing and will continue to do.
As for the playoffs returning to AmericanAirlines Arena, Wade knows what to expect. This is the man who owns virtually every postseason record in franchise history including games (166), points (3,781), rebounds (877) and assists (828).
And only Wade and Udonis Haslem have been in uniform for all three Heat titles.
“This is the best time for basketball fans, for basketball players,” he said. “It’s just nothing like the playoffs, man. And our crowd is going to be ecstatic, excited, especially after missing the playoffs last year and getting the opportunity to get back and let their voices be heard.
“Obviously, we cannot wait for that energy, but after that energy fades away it’s the game of basketball and we have to figure out a way to win a game versus a very good team that we’ve been evenly matched up against all year. There’s no home advantage in this series. Each game, the better team is going to win that night and we need to be the better team tomorrow.”