In a matchup featuring the league’s top two scorers, Wade looks to continue his surge Monday night when Miami opens a daunting portion of its schedule against LeBron James and the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
A year after missing 31 games due to injuries, a healthy Wade has led the Heat (31-27) to the fifth-best record in the East. He is averaging a league-high 29.0 points - 0.7 more than James - and virtually carried his team on his back this past week, scoring or assisting on 59 percent of Miami’s baskets in four games.
Wade scored a career-high 50 points in a loss to Orlando on Feb. 22, and followed that two days later with a 31-point, 16-assist effort in a win over Detroit. He had 21 points and 10 assists in a loss to Atlanta on Thursday, one night before a gutsy performance in a 120-115 win at New York.
Against the Knicks on Friday, Wade scored 46 points - 24 of them in the fourth quarter and 15 coming in a dramatic 19-0 spurt that erased a 15-point deficit in the final nine minutes. In addition to all the scoring, the five-time All-Star added 10 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks.
“MVP,” Heat rookie Michael Beasley said. “That’s all I can say.”
Cleveland (46-12) players would probably disagree with Beasley, as James helped the Cavaliers eclipse their win total from last season with Sunday’s 88-87 victory over Atlanta.
The five-time All-Star, who finished with 26 points and 11 assists, drew a foul and hit the winning free throw with 1.6 seconds left as the Cavs erased a five-point deficit with 1:42 remaining to win for the seventh time in eight games.
“It’s one of the better wins we’ve had,” said James, who was triple-teamed at times. “On the road, it means a lot more against a playoff team.”
James, the frontrunner for league MVP, is Wade’s biggest obstacle in a demanding week. The Heat host red-hot Phoenix Wednesday, visit Toronto on Friday, and meet James again Saturday in Cleveland.
“We’ve got to continue to move forward,” Wade said. “We’ve got one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference coming in Cleveland. It’s at home and we’ve got to fight again. It’s playoff time.”
The Cavs and Heat have split their first two meetings of the season - a home-and-home series Dec. 28 and 30 - with the host team winning each time.
James finished with 33 points, nine assists and six rebounds in Cleveland’s 93-86 win over the Heat on Dec. 28 and had 38 points and seven assists in a 104-95 loss in Miami two days later.
Wade had 29 points and eight assists in the loss to the Cavs, and 21 points and 12 assists in Miami’s victory.