The Miami Heat return to the arena where they won last season’s NBA title on Thursday, but the man most responsible for that championship run will not be there.
Wade was named the MVP of the finals as he led Miami (26-27) to the franchise’s first championship. However, he will miss the Heat’s first visit to American Airlines Center since then, after dislocating his left shoulder in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 112-102 loss to Houston.
Wade, who had scored 27 points, got tangled up with the Rockets’ Shane Battier and grimaced in pain before going to the bench. A couple of minutes later he was helped into a wheelchair and taken from courtside. The three-time All-Star was not moving his left arm and appeared to be in severe pain as he was wheeled away.
The injury to Wade - without whom the Heat are 1-6 this season—comes as center Shaquille O’Neal is finally regaining his health after missing two months due to knee surgery.
“This is the way it’s going to be this year I guess,” said Pat Riley, who coached his first game on Wednesday after missing nearly seven weeks for operations to replace his left hip and repair cartilage in his right knee. “We’ve had a lot of adversity. Things haven’t been going well from the get go.”
O’Neal looks to build off one of his most productive games of 2006-07, though, after finishing with 20 points and a season-high 16 rebounds on Wednesday for just his second double-double of the season.
“I have to be more aggressive and get more looks and keep everyone else involved,” said O’Neal, who has only played in 14 games. “Coach is calling my play and if he keeps calling them, I will deliver.”
The 14-time All-Star center missed Miami’s first meeting with the Mavericks (44-9) since last season’s finals, a 99-93 home loss on Jan. 21.
Dallas, which is a league-best 24-3 at home this season, won the first two games of last season’s finals at home and looked poised to win the franchise’s first championship. Momentum changed quickly, though, as they lost three straight games in Miami, and returned to American Airlines Center to lose Game 6 and watch the Heat celebrate on their home court.
The Mavericks have won 30 of 32 games since Dec. 13, and defeated Houston 80-77 last Thursday in their final game before the All-Star break for their ninth straight victory. They have also won a franchise-record 17 consecutive home games.
With a win Thursday, Dallas can become just the fourth team in NBA history to have three winning streaks of at least 10 games in the same season.
Dallas held the Rockets to just 38.8 percent shooting last Thursday, and outscored them 6-0 in the final 3:02 of the game.
“Our whole mentality this year is to finish games either at the end of the quarter or at the end of the game and we did that tonight,” Mavericks guard Jason Terry said.
Nowitzki had 26 points and eight rebounds in Dallas’ last game before the break, and is averaging 28.2 points and 9.6 boards in his last five games. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds against the Heat last month.