LOS ANGELES, April 17 — Dwyane Wade rolled back the years with a vintage performance as the Miami Heat ended Philadelphia’s 17-game winning streak to level their Eastern Conference playoff series yesterday.
The 36-year-old Wade scored 28 points in 25 minutes from the bench as Miami stunned the 76ers’ home crowd into silence with a 113-103 victory.
It was a superb performance from Wade, a three-time NBA champion who started this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers before re-joining Miami in February just before the trade deadline.
Wade’s experience proved crucial throughout, inspiring a first-half fightback to wipe out the 76ers’ early lead before shepherding Miami to the win in a nervy finale.
Wade, who also had seven rebounds and three assists, was backed by 20 points from Goran Dragic and 18 points from James Johnson.
“I just came in with an aggressive approach,” Wade said afterwards. “I told myself that whatever minutes I was going to play, I was going to do it aggressively.
“Once the balls start falling for you then it just goes from there.
“I love the stage. I play the game for these moments. To be able to come through for your team when they need you feels good.”
Philadelphia meanwhile were left reflecting on their first loss since early March, jolting their momentum as the series heads to Miami for game three on Thursday.
Ben Simmons led the Philadelphia scoring with 24 points, with Dario Saric adding 23 and Marco Belinelli 16.
The Sixers had started confidently, building a seven-point cushion to lead 29-22 at the end of the first quarter.
But the hosts were then obliterated in the second period as the Heat went on a scoring spree, with Wade amassing 21 first half points.
With the Sixers struggling from three-point range, the Heat found their touch, outscoring Philly by 34-13 in the second quarter to take a 56-42 lead into the half-time break.
Miami defended the lead through the second half, and had moved out to 81-65 clear near the end of the third period.
Philadelphia rallied relentlessly and it looked ominous for Miami as the Sixers closed the gap to two points at 98-96.
Wade however had other ideas, grabbing a two-pointer before finding Johnson with a superb pass to make it 102-96.
Dragic then grabbed another two-pointer and suddenly the Heat were eight clear again at 104-96, leaving the Sixers with too much to do to overturn the deficit.
Sixers coach Brett Brown later was forced to respond to an expletive-laced social media from injured star Joel Embiid, who wrote of his frustration at being “babied” after watching the loss from the sidelines.
“He just wants to play basketball, to be with his team, to play in front of the fans,” Brown said.
“When he’s not able to do that he gets frustrated and I respect his frustration.” — AFP