MIAMI -- About two hours before the start of Friday’s game, Dwyane Wade pushed himself through a rigorous workout on the AmericanAirlines Arena court that offered the only recent glimpse of progress amid his most extensive injury absence of the season.
The Miami Heat certainly could have used a few of those shots on a night when they ultimately ran out of firepower in a 122-121 double-overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In a game that saw the teams combine for 243 points, 192 shot attempts in 58 minutes and 21 lead changes before the final buzzer, there was another number that resonated when all was settled.
Wade missed his 24th game of the season on Friday, including his fifth in a row as he continues to work his way back from a nagging hamstring strain. Wade’s teammates and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra continue to temper their level of concern about Wade's status, but there has been no indication as to when the team’s second-leading scorer might return to action.
Before he carried the Heat for nearly 48 minutes and led Miami with 34 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals and a block in the loss, LeBron James said he’s seen enough from the workouts to believe Wade could be back in the lineup relatively soon. James revealed that in addition to the hamstring injury Wade suffered late in the March 26 loss to Indiana, he also is still dealing with soreness from the strained Achilles he sustained in March 19 loss to the Celtics.
The Heat (52-23) have seven regular-season games remaining, with Sunday’s matchup against the New York Knicks the first of six consecutive against teams that are battling for playoff position.
“He’s been looking better and better every day,” James said of Wade, who has not spoken with the media in recent days. “Obviously, testing out that Achilles is something he didn’t want to push too far, or the hamstring. So he’s been strengthening and conditioning. I think he’s getting back to where he needs to be, and probably within the next week he should be back on the floor.”
Both the hamstring and Achilles injuries are in Wade’s left leg. The majority of the games he’s missed this season have been the result of his continued recovery and rest regimen from an offseason procedure to heal his right kneecap of multiple bone bruises.
Relegated to a navy suit jacket, white shirt and tan pants, all Wade could do Friday night after his workout was stand near the bench and watch a win slip away from the Heat on multiple occasions. The Heat led 115-111 with 3:27 left in the second overtime period, but the Timberwolves used a 10-3 run, sparked by Kevin Love’s relentless play on both ends of the court, to take a three-point lead.
Minnesota (38-37) made enough free throws the rest of the way to hold off the Heat, whose final shot to win it failed when Ray Allen was forced into an errant jumper while defended by Love. James said it took him a few moments after the game to get over his frustrations from not getting the ball for the final shot. James expressed a similar sentiment after Spoelstra called a play for Chris Bosh to get the last shot with two seconds left in the 84-83 loss to the Pacers.
“It’s a little frustrating, being in this position again and not being able to get the last shot,” James said. “It happened in the Indiana game and tonight as well. It’s a little frustrating, but I’m over it.”
The Heat scored 29 points off 18 Minnesota turnovers and won the rebounding battle 52-46. But the Timberwolves eventually outlasted the Heat with a balanced offense that had six players score in double figures, led by Love’s 28 points and 11 rebounds.
The Heat believe these are the kind of games that will get them prepared for playoff intensity, but there’s still some level of concern about the team’s overall rhythm with so many key players rolling in and out of the lineup. Allen had 10 points in his first game back after missing five with a flu-like virus.
The Heat won’t rush Wade back, but the sooner he’s available, the sooner they can develop some sense of continuity for the postseason. Wade’s teammates expect him to need a few games to get back into the flow after missing so much time.
“He’s got to get his rhythm, and that’s going to be the main thing,” point guard Mario Chalmers said. “Hopefully, he’ll hurry up and get out there. I think we can figure it out. But as a player, you always want to have that rhythm going into big moments like the playoffs. With D-Wade, he’s a big rhythm player, but it’s easy for him to find his rhythm. So we’re not too much worried.”
Bosh said there are too many unsettled aspects of the Heat’s game to feel overly confident about their level of play the past few weeks. As competition gets tougher, Miami can’t afford to be short-handed. They also don’t want to risk trying to figure everything out once they’re in the playoffs.
“We need everybody,” Bosh said. “As far as rhythm and timing and the sets we run, team chemistry, we need some games under our belt for that. You always have to be concerned. Every team around the league is concerned. If you don’t have any concern, you’re probably going to get beat in the playoffs, quite frankly. I want us to play our best basketball. We have a lot of improving to do. We still have a long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long way to go. And it’s not going to be easy at all.”