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Thursday, May 31, 2012
Wade avoids blame with late save

By Israel Gutierrez
ESPN.com

Dwyane Wade
His late slipups almost cost the Heat the game, but D-Wade made the most of his chance to atone.

MIAMI -- One of the luxuries of being a teammate of LeBron James, at least the post-Decision version, is you can almost escape any situation without blame.

For most of the past two seasons, Dwyane Wade has been in that enviable position, skating at times for mistakes because LeBron is available to be dissected by an audience much more eager to disparage him.

We'll never know if Wade would've escaped Wednesday's Game 2 without heavy criticism because he and the Miami Heat managed to pull out a 115-111 overtime win against an exceptional Rajon Rondo and his Boston Celtics.

But let's just say if the outcome was different -- or as bitter Boston fans would suggest, if the referees were actually watching the game down the stretch -- Wade would've been able to test the limits of his free pass.

In the end, Wade walked away a hero with a timely 23 points. But in what was his most adventurous game of the postseason, Wade put himself in position to receive plenty of blame throughout.

Coming off a game in which they gave up far too many layups to the combo of Wade and James, the Celtics took an entirely different approach to defending both of them. While James managed to at least get to the foul line and salvage a 13-point first half, Wade was a relative non-factor with two points, five missed shots, no free throws, no assists and one turnover

"They came out and defended the heck out of us, particularly in the first half," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "They were really aggressive on our pick-and-rolls.

"[Wade] was able to stay in it mentally through all of that. That's the way it's going to be the rest of the series."

Wade said after Game 1 that he and James hadn't been playing as much "hero ball" of late, but that's exactly what was needed here.

Wade took advantage of his share of isolation plays, disregarding screens so as not to bring any additional defenders his way.

The result was a 12-point burst in the period -- one that not-so-coincidentally came as Miami was able to outscore the Celtics 35-22 and take a six-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

Wade's normal path in this situation would be to follow up with a strong finishing quarter as well. But in that fourth quarter, nothing went according to plan for Wade.

In fact, it was almost dreadful enough to undo all the good he did in that third quarter.

It wasn't just that Wade had zero field-goal attempts in the fourth and managed just a point. It was a series of plays that can now be completely forgotten because the ledger says the Heat are up 2-0 in this series.

As the Heat's lead was dwindling, early in the period, it was a pair of plays in which Wade was involved that finally gave the Celtics the edge.

First, he was caught helping off Mickael Pietrus enough to allow him a wide-open 3-pointer that cut the Heat lead to 85-84. And on the ensuing possession, Wade tried a cross-court pass over a Celtics double-team that was intercepted by Rondo for a bucket that put Boston ahead by a point -- a lead they held for the next five minutes of play.

But that wasn't even the worst of it.

After it appeared Wade helped salvage the Heat win by finding his good buddy Udonis Haslem for a jumper that gave Miami a four-point lead with 1:08 left, Wade let the win in regulation slip out of his hands -- and into Ray Allen's.

With 47 seconds left, Wade missed one of two free throws, keeping the Celtics within three points. But erratic free throw shooting has been part of his repertoire in these playoffs. It was his decision on the ensuing Boston possession that was most damaging.

With the Celtics looking for the 3-pointer to tie, Wade darted out to Kevin Garnett just as the pass was reaching him. Rather than go the safe route and simply stay close to Garnett, Wade went for the steal. He didn't get it, and that set in motion a pair of passes that found Allen wide open for the game-tying 3.

Immediately after the play, with just 34 seconds on the clock, Wade and LeBron bickered for a while about it. In fact, it wasn't until Wade noticed that the big screen in the arena was on the two of them arguing that he ended the discussion -- at least until the cameras went elsewhere. They were right back at it afterward.

Wade's point was, yes, he made a mistake by going for the steal, but James never should've left Allen alone on the perimeter because the Heat were ahead by three and wouldn't have been hurt much by a Keyon Dooling layup.

In the end, though, Wade accepted the blame.

"As I told them, bonehead play on my part," Wade said. "If I was going to rotate, I should have stayed with my body on KG, made the pass tougher.

"I had to make something happen in overtime to make up for it."

Of course, Wade had only that overtime opportunity because James missed a game-winner at the buzzer. But he kept his end of the bargain nonetheless -- with a little help from a fortunate no-call.

In overtime, Wade sealed the Heat win by reverting to his third-quarter self, attacking quickly before help could come. But that was only after he got away with a foul on Rondo, who missed a reverse layup when Wade's forearm caught him near the chin.

The ensuing play resulted in a Haslem fast-break dunk, turning what would've been a two-point Celtics lead into a four-point swing in favor of the Heat.

From there, it was all Wade, with the most memorable snapshot coming after he hit a shot over Garnett as he was fouled.

The two former Chicago prep stars had a classic staring contest as Wade got up off the floor, only breaking eye contact when Wade walked away to shoot his free throw.

Garnett wasn't particularly happy that Wade came into the lane with a leg extended.

Wade didn't care much.

"Listen, he ain't the one to talk about kicking and grabbing or nothing like that," Wade said. "It's in the moment. I'm going to the basket strong. At the end of the day, I got fouled and I made the play.

"When I looked up, he was looking down at me, so I looked back up at him."

Fittingly, it was up to Wade to actually close out the Celtics, at the line with 2.2 seconds left and his team up three.

Just to make it interesting, Wade missed the first. He made the second.

Catastrophe avoided.