The Miami Heat managed to knock down the Boston Celtics on Sunday, winning 100-77 behind a great performance from LeBron James and the team's defense. But all isn't rosy in South Beach, as Dwyane Wade struggled again.
In four games against the Celtics this season, Wade has averaged just 12.8 points, 5.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 39 minutes, shooting 30 percent on two-pointers, 18 percent on threes and 28 percent overall. It's a far cry not just from what Wade did to the Celtics in the playoffs last year, but what the guard is doing against every other team in the NBA.
On Sunday, Wade shot just 4-12 and scored 14 points. Yes, that was an improvement on his previous three games against Boston this season. Wade did look to defer more than usual, picking up eight assists, and maybe that's the route the Heat want to take this instead of trying to force Wade to be himself against a defense clearly keying on him. The bizarre part of it is that Boston played Wade the exact same way during the teams' first-round playoff series a year ago, and Wade was simply magnificent despite the attention.
It's quite possibly tied into this season's Miami subplot, that Wade is not completely comfortable playing off the ball so much, and that his partnership with LeBron causes some problems for his rhythm and style. For comparison's sake, Wade is taking about 16 shots (including pairs of free throws) in 39 minutes against Boston this season. In the playoff series last year, Wade played 42 minutes a game and took an average of more than 25 shots per game. The ball was in Wade's hands almost exclusively last April. This year? LeBron is handling it more frequently, and while that's likely better for the Heat's offense -- James is simply incredible -- it's not good for Wade.
Given that Miami will almost assuredly face Boston in the second round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, it's imperative that coach Erik Spoelstra finds a way to unlock Wade as the second option. The Heat may not survive a seven-game series otherwise.