SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The biggest adjustment for Dwyane Wade came hours before Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
It was when Miami coach Erik Spoelstra made the decision to start Mike Miller over Udonis Haslem, with the thinking that it would help thwart San Antonio’s defensive schemes against LeBron James.
Instead, it served as a time machine of sorts for Wade — who found his form again, on a night when the Heat absolutely needed it most.
The Finals are now a best-of-three series that will be decided next week in Miami, thanks largely to Wade, who came up with his best game in months to carry the Heat in Game 4 on Thursday night. He had 32 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists, and the Heat shook off an early 10-point deficit to beat the Spurs 109-93 on Thursday night.
The series is knotted at two games apiece, with Game 5 in San Antonio on Sunday.
“Right now it’s a three-game series,” Wade said. “Two great ballclubs, we just want to come out again and play well.”
Wade’s postseason has been highly un-Wade-like, with him averaging only 14.2 points in the playoffs entering Thursday. His right knee has been an issue for more than three months — not coincidentally, that’s also when his last 30-point outing before Game 4 was. And by the time fourth quarters roll around, he’s typically been finished, getting an average of 2.3 points in the final 12 minutes of games in these playoffs.
He is not the 2006 version anymore, without question.
But what the Spurs did against him defensively Thursday had to strike a nerve.
Because the Heat started Miller, the Spurs had no choice but to open the game with Tiago Splitter — their center — guarding Wade. That experiment ended after 47 seconds. And in the second half, the Spurs went to Boris Diaw — another person who it’s difficult to envision guarding a former Finals MVP who’s quicker and smaller — to open against Wade.
Nonetheless, it got Wade going.
He made 14 of 25 shots, significant in both terms of success ratio and amount, since it’s the second-highest shot total he’s taken this season. He wanted the ball, and the Heat wanted him to have the ball.
“How are you going to respond?” Wade asked his teammates before the game.
He apparently took those words to heart as well.
The lineup change worked, and that’s with Miller scoring exactly zero points.
Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade (3) is defended by San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan, during the first half at Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball series, Thursday, June 13, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle, Pool)