DALLAS – Dwyane Wade(notes) casually strolled toward the arena exit late Tuesday, his arm around his agent Henry Thomas, when the heckling started. Several Dallas Mavericks fans celebrating inside an arena club caught sight of Wade and began booing. Wade kept walking, flashing only a smile and a thumb’s-up.
Wade look unfazed, even though his evening had not gone according to plan. He had once again taken a starring role in these NBA Finals, scoring 32 points to push the Miami Heat to the brink of a 3-1 lead in the series – only this time he watched it all unravel in the final minute. Among the issues: Wade missed a free throw that would have tied the score with 30.1 seconds left in the eventual 86-83 Game 4 loss.
“I can't shoot the free throw any better than I did,” Wade said. “It went in and came out. The basketball gods didn't want it to go in. When you put yourself in a situation where you practice on that moment, you thought about that moment, you go out there and you shoot them like you normally do. That's what I did. It eventually came out.”
Wade has carried the Heat through much of the Finals, and he did the same in Game 4. He’s averaging a series-high 29 points on 56.7 percent shooting, and even showed off some stunning defense on Tuesday. Midway through the final quarter, Tyson Chandler(notes), the Mavs’ 7-foot-1 center, tried to go to the rim for a game-tying dunk only to be blocked by Wade. Wade turned the play into a fast-break layup on the other end of the floor.
A few minutes later, Wade nearly blocked Chandler again at the rim only to be called for a foul.
“He caught me at a good time the first time,” Chandler said. “The second time I was making sure either I was going to put the ball on the rim or him.”
In the game’s tense final few minutes, the Heat’s chances of winning – as they often have in this series – rested on Wade’s shoulders. LeBron James(notes) had contributed little, scoring just eight points, and Chris Bosh(notes) had cooled off in the second half. Wade scored seven of Miami’s 14 points in the final quarter, but didn’t get enough help to push the Heat past the Mavericks.
Wade also didn’t help the cause with his missed foul shot. With Miami down 82-80 with 30.1 seconds left, Wade went to the free-throw line. The first shot bounced high off the rim before falling in. Sensing Wade wasn’t confident, the crowd’s roar grew even louder as he prepared to take his second free throw. He missed.
“It wasn't because I wasn't ready for the moment or haven't been in that moment,” Wade said. “The basketball gods just had other plans.”
Nowitzki followed with a driving layup that gave Dallas an 84-81 lead with 14.4 seconds left. Wade answered with a dunk before Jason Terry(notes) extended the Mavericks’ lead back to three with 6.7 seconds left.
Wade still had enough time to play the hero, and Mavericks fans had reason to be nervous considering what he’s done in the Finals. Unfortunately for the Heat, Wade couldn’t corral the inbound pass and barely saved it from a backcourt violation before passing to Mike Miller(notes), who missed a tying 3-pointer before the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“I just fumbled it because I was kind of anxious,” Wade said. “I saw an opening really fast, trying to get there before I caught the ball. Obviously, I would love to have that play back. We would love to have a lot of plays back. It happened. It was unfortunate.”
On the brink of taking control of the series, Wade walked off knowing he has a lot more work to do.