Did Dwyane Wade go cold Thursday or did he just stop hitting tough perimeter shots?
In the Heat's loss to the Knicks, Dwyane Wade caught fire. For the first three quarters, it seemed Wade couldn’t miss. Actually, during a string of thirteen consecutive shots, he didn’t.
But in the fourth quarter, he couldn’t buy a bucket, missing all seven of his field goal attempts. What happened? Was it bad luck or poor decision-making? I decided to break down each fourth quarter shot.
On a broken possession, Carlos Arroyo hands it off to Wade on the right wing with just six seconds left on the shot clock. Arroyo walks over to set a ball screen on Wade’s defender Landry Fields but Wade ignores Arroyo and opts to take Fields one-on-one rather than using the pick. But instead of driving past him, he settles for the long 3-pointer with three seconds remaining on the shot clock. The contested shot clanks off the back rim.
A carbon copy of an earlier play. Wade goes away from a Joel Anthony side screen on the left wing, catching Fields off balance, and tries a jump-stop fadeaway jumper over Amare Stoudemire. The shot goes halfway down the net before it somehow dinks out.
Once again, Wade turns down a ball screen out on the perimeter (this time from Anthony, not Arroyo) and chooses to go one-on-one in isolation against Fields instead. And once again, he settles for a 3. His shot misses the entire rim and errantly banks off the far side of the backboard. The result is another missed well-contested 3-point jumper and a cheering Madison Square Garden. The shot would have put the Heat up five points with 5:30 to go but instead it made on-looking Heat fans cringe.
After taking a hand-off from Anthony at the right foul-line-extended, Wade loops all the way around toward the left side of the basket on the dribble, and takes an off-balance six-foot runner on Raymond Felton, who may have cut his legs out from him. No call from the referees, but Wade misses it badly off the backboard and also misses the put-back tip shot. Wade never needs full balance to convert, but he was never squared away on either attempt. The shot prompted TNT analyst Steve Kerr to say on the air, “The Heat just throwing up wild shots.”
Down two with a little over three minutes left, the Heat draw up this play: everyone clear out for a Wade post-up on the left block on Fields. Wade backs him down with three dribbles and turns his left shoulder for a hook shot in the lane. It misses right off the rim. This was probably his best look of his final seven shots, but he earned several far easier buckets earlier in the game.
On the next Heat possession, Wade dribbles around at the top of the key, waiting for Mario Chalmers (yes, Mario Chalmers) to arrive for the high ball screen. The objective is to get the switch and work a mismatch on Felton. It works, but Wade hurries a another off-balance shot in the lane, which was contested by both Felton and a swatting Stoudemire. The muscled shot misses back rim. Wade forced this one unnecessarily -- the shot clock read “10” on the release -- for his last shot attempt of the game.
Yes, Wade missed the last seven shots of the game all in the fourth quarter, but it’s worth keeping in mind that all shots are not equal. Two of last seven shots were 3-pointers and none of them were clean layups. What's more, none of the last seven shots came in transition whereas he earned five transition buckets earlier in the game. The degree of difficulty was far steeper for his last seven shots than the previous 15.
Simply put, Wade never saw a high-percentage look in the fourth quarter. Credit the Knicks defense, particularly Felton, for not backing down against Wade when he was on his way to a historic night at Madison Square Garden.