With O’Neal limited to just four games this season, Wade has provided most of Miami’s offense and wasted little time getting back on track after missing two games following dental surgery. He scored a season-high 41 points on 15-of-24 shooting and added seven assists as Miami defeated visiting Memphis 98-90 on Saturday.
“I couldn’t wait to get back,” said Wade, who is third in the league in scoring at 28.6 points per game. “The rest was good, but I love the game. I was excited to be out there again and helping the team. It was a joy to get back on the court and contribute.”
It was Wade’s first game since scoring 37 in a 99-77 win over Toronto last Monday.
Miami definitely needs Wade in the lineup. Udonis Haslem is the only other Miami player averaging in double figures at 12.0 ppg.
Wade scored 29 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field and 13-for-14 from the free-throw line in Miami’s 101-86 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 21. Wade also is averaging 19.3 points in nine career games against the Hornets.
New Orleans (10-12) looks to win its third straight against Miami after previously dropping six of their last seven to the Heat. The Hornets have won just twice in their last 11 games since starting 8-3.
With injuries to Peja Stojakovic and David West, the Hornets continue to lean on Chris Paul. The reigning rookie of the year scored 30 points, matched a career-high with 12 rebounds and dished out eight assists in a 90-79 loss to Dallas on Saturday.
“We fought real hard. We were scrappy,” Hornets center Tyson Chandler said. “We were in it the entire game, but they just had more firepower than us and they executed at the end.”
Paul, who averages 18.7 points per game and is among the league leaguers with 9.1 assists per game, had 11 points and 10 assists in New Orleans’ win over Miami in November.
Stojakovic and West haven’t played together since Nov. 12, and New Orleans is last in the NBA in scoring at 90.5 points per game.
The Hornets will be without Stojakovic indefinitely after he underwent lower back surgery on Sunday to have a disc fragment removed. West is scheduled for right elbow surgery later this week.
Stojakovic was averaging 17.8 ppg this season. West, the team’s leading scorer in 2005-06, was second in 2006-07 at 17.4 ppg.
“We will evaluate Peja and David once they have recovered from their surgeries before we make a determination on their status,” Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said. “Although our team has been slowed by injuries as of late, we don’t want to rush their returns to the detriment of their health.”
The Hornets, who have lost four of their last five games on the road, also have dropped four in a row in Miami.