It was as if at times he wasn’t even on the court, Outplayed by several Celtics - including Marquis Daniels - Dwyane Wade seemed barely able to contribute in the Heat’s 101-91 loss in Friday night’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at TD Garden.
With the Celtics locking down on him, Wade had just 2 points in the first quarter. It was still an improvement over Game 2, in which Wade didn’t score his first points until the final minute of the second quarter.
He finished with 18 points, but he never seemed to be a factor. For most of the night, LeBron James carried the Heat. It wasn’t until a fourth-quarter comeback that knocked the Celtics’ lead from 24 to 8, that any of the Heat supporting cast lent a hand.
Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers did. But Wade? It seemed at times like he forgot to get on the plane to Boston.
“They were very aggressive trying to get the ball out of his hands, and the ball was moving at times,’’ coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We still need to find ways to get it back to him at the second or third ball movement.’’
When the coach was asked if something was wrong with Wade, he denied there was anything beyond the logging of large numbers of playoff minutes.
Wade didn’t seem thrown by his performance, or his lack of aggressiveness in getting to the line. He didn’t have a free throw attempt in the game, strange for a player who prides himself on playing attack basketball.
“I played my game,’’ Wade said. “I attacked when I needed to. I guess it just wasn’t for me to get to the line tonight.’’
Clearly, the Celtics are doing something right in their defense of Wade. And the Heat and the guard have yet to adjust, something they’ll need to do in the absence of Chris Bosh.
Wade shot 9 for 20 in Game 3, going 3 for 9 in the first half for 6 points. By that point the Heat were down by 13 points, and the game getting out of control.
Wade scored 6 of the Heat’s 21 points in the third quarter, but it seemed to barely make a dent as the Celtics opened a 24-point lead. He added 6 more points in the fourth as the Heat closed the gap, but it was Miller who led the charge with 9 points in the quarter.
“D-Wade, that’s how he plays,’’ Chalmers said. “Early on he’s going to try to find his rhythm in a game, and later on he’s going to start attacking. Today he started attacking, but we need him to do that more.’’
Chalmers said the Celtics have been “blitzing him, switching him, kind of disrupting his game right now. But D-Wade’s a great player. He’s going to figure it out.’’
The Heat certainly hope so.
“They’re just double-teaming, junking it up defensively, keeping [Kevin Garnett] in the paint,’’ Udonis Haslem said. “We’ve just got to keep playing. If we get stops and get out and go, we take away the ability for them to junk up the defense and clog the paint.’’
That’s something they’ll have to fix before taking the court Sunday in Game 4. This is not a team that can win with the sort of effort it got from Wade on Friday night - 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. The Heat have James, but they also need Wade.
“They’re blitzing him, double-teaming him on the pick-and-roll, trying to keep him on one side of the floor,’’ Shane Battier said. “I think we’ll make probably a schematic adjustment, just move him around the floor, put him in areas where he can do damage.
“That’s the chess match in the playoffs. They’re going to take away some things, and it’s up to us to counter that and come up with a solution.’’