MIAMI – At the very end of the third quarter and for the first eight minutes of the fourth on Tuesday, Dwyane Wade was on the bench and the Miami Heat outscored the San Antonio Spurs 24-9 to turn a 12-point deficit into a three-point lead.
Despite the roll his team was on, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra then went back to Wade. And immediately, the Spurs turned things around, going on a 10-2 run to build their five-point lead that they so painfully blew in the final 28 seconds of regulation.
Maybe the turnaround was just a coincidence, but it’s hard not to see it as a continuation of a trend. Wade is now a minus-52 in The Finals. For the uninitiated, that means that the Heat have been outscored by 52 points in Wade’s 216 minutes on the floor. They’ve been much better, both offensively and defensively, with Wade on the bench and Mike Miller and/or Ray Allen (who are a combined 23-for-34 from 3-point range in the series) in his place.
Wade is obviously banged up. And after Game 6, you can add a left knee injury (which kept him in the locker room as the third quarter started) to his existing right knee injury.
Injured or not, Wade’s presence hurts the Heat’s floor spacing, because the Spurs don’t feel the need to guard him on the perimeter. By contrast, they’ll stay at home on both Allen and Miller, even when LeBron James is coming off a pick.
So it will be interesting to see how Spoelstra divvies up playing time for his three shooting guards in Game 7 on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, ABC). Spoelstra is an admitted stat-head, but said on Wednesday that he doesn’t care about Wade’s plus-minus in the series or that James has been better without his co-star.
“I don’t really give a whole lot to those numbers,” the coach said. “We’re going as far as they take us, along with the other guys. You can’t win this series or the last game with a statistic. You have to compete and win those battles on the court.”
Wade, meanwhile, said that he’s got to do whatever he can to help his team on Thursday.
“There’s one game left,” he said. “Whatever you have inside of you, you muster it up, you give it. So I’ll be fine.”