The Wade Train: To ride or not to ride?
The sixth-seeded Miami Heat currently trail the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers by a single game after falling short in Game 3. They were victim of a Philly outburst in which a 32-14 fourth quarter was involved, and saw guys like Simmons and Embiid go off. There is a very common variable in Miami’s success versus failures this series, and this variable is a player named Dwyane Wade. Let’s take a look at his numbers and the implications they have on the series and possibly his career.
When does Wade fade?
Anyone keeping up with this series at all knows that Dwyane Wade had a very different Game 2 than he did Games 1 and 3. Here are his numbers:
Game 1: 11 points on 4/7 shooting, four rebounds, and nothing else in 19 minutes
Game 2: 28 points on 69 percent shooting, seven rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 26 minutes
Game 3: Eight points on 20 percent from the floor, two rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block
Yes, it is a small sample size, but so far this series Wade has not been consistent at all. Or, he hates odd numbers and he is about to go off again in Game 4? Your guess is as good as mine, but the Heat apparently need Wade to play well for them.
In the two games where he didn’t do much at all, the Heat lost by a combined 47 points. For just two games worth of point differential in what people thought would be a highly competitive series, this is pretty crazy. But his 28-point outburst in Game 2? Heat win by 10 and everyone plays better when Wade does.
It is tough to say if 1) Wade has unluckily had two not-so-great games or 2) his 28-point Game 2 was an anomaly. As I said, so far it appears that this team needs the 36-year-old to play well if the team wants to play well. Then again, let’s take a look back at the most important of the preceding sentence: The number 36. Dwyane Wade has been in the league for 14 years, and while “Vintage D-Wade” and “Flash” can come out at any given moment, the team should not be solely relying on the veteran to propel them to success and wins.
Miami has a lot more weapons, especially at the guard spot, that should be suitable for beating most teams. Then again, maybe they got a bit unlucky in having to play the Sixers, who are the scariest team in the Eastern Conference and have a ceiling higher than the ozone.
What if he doesn’t show up?
The rest of the Heat team has been pretty good, but have just been outplayed by the Sixers. And they’re extremely outplayed when Wade doesn’t play well (47 points outplayed, to be exact). Goran Dragic has played well consistently, but only sometimes does the team get good stuff out of guys like Josh Richardson and Tyler Johnson. Justise Winslow had a great Game 3, Kelly Olynyk has played big minutes and great defense, and James Johnson is solid as always, but they are just no match for everything the 76ers bring to the table.
The biggest surprise for this team, and arguably the biggest of the postseason thus far, is Miami center Hassan Whiteside. He had an injury-plagued regular season but played very well in limited minutes when he was on the court. The playoffs, however, are not treating him all that nicely. Here are his averages through the first three games:
3.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 3.0 fouls, and 2.3 turnovers in 13.7 minutes.
Not good. He has 11 points the entire series and is on the floor for just over a quarter’s worth of time each night. Part of it is due to foul trouble, part is due to small-ball, but I think a lot of it is how much of a liability he can be on defense. Yes, he’s a great shot blocker, but if he goes up at Joel Embiid every time, he might get him once or twice, and Embiid will figure him out in a second. He could have a breakout game, but the way Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson are playing, this is quite doubtful.
Dwyane Wade came to Miami from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the middle of the season, and he made it clear that this was his last stop before retirement. So does this mean if Wade and the Heat take a first-round exit this postseason that this is it for him? Or does he still have something left? If Miami advances at least another round and Wade plays well, you have to think he sticks around for at least another season to see what he can bring to Miami.
There are plenty of question marks surrounding what kind of series Dwyane Wade will have from here on out and, unfortunately for him, this series might slightly affect his career. First-round elimination does not automatically mean retirement for Wade, but the likelihood increases a bit. I think he still has enough swagger in his step to last another season or two, and let’s hope the Game 2 28-point Dwyane Wade shows up to play more often than not to make this series what everyone hoped it would be.