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For all the undeniably excellent things about Dwyane Wade's game, he has often come under fire for his inability to develop a consistent long-range shot. He's a 29 percent 3-point shooter over the course of his 13-year career, and has never shot better than 32 percent from beyond the arc. The Miami Heat superstar has shown some touch in the early going of the 2015-16 season, though, making four of his eight triple tries through four games.
After missing a 25-footer midway through the second quarter of Thursday's visit to the Twin Cities to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wade needed a long-ball to drop to stay at 50 percent for the season. This is probably not how he envisioned getting it.
With the final seconds of the first half ticking away, Wolves point man Ricky Rubio dribbled against Miami's Goran Dragic as Minnesota ran through a set designed to create one last good look before intermission. But as the Spaniard crossed over from right to left and began to drive past Dragic, Wade cheated over a step, reached in and poked the ball from Rubio's grasp. With barely one second to go, Wade corralled the loose ball, spun toward the frontcourt, stepped and heaved a prayer from about 50 feet away. It was answered, sending Miami into the break with a 10-point lead on their hosts. (He did not appear to call glass.)
There was something about the way Wade made the play — decisive in his help, spare in his movement, unhurried as he gathered the ball, graceful as he twirled and fired — that felt pretty appropriate to how he's looked thus far this season.
The 33-year-old shooting guard has scored 20 or more points in all five Miami outings, including 25 on 11-for-19 shooting to go with five rebounds, three steals and two assists in 31 minutes of work as the Heat breezed past the young Wolves, 96-84, on Thursday. He's pressed the action without ever seeming to be on tilt; aggressive, but not overly so. He entered Thursday averaging eight drives to the basket per game, according to NBA.com's SportVU player tracking data, up a tick from either of the past two seasons, and he's been exceptionally good at either finishing in the lane or getting himself to the charity stripe, generating just under one point scored per drive.
“He's been doing that his whole career," fellow star Chris Bosh (16 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and one steal in 28 minutes) said after the game, according to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald. "We’re just encouraging him to be aggressive every game. He’s making plays for us. He’s assisting, getting us into second and third situation. He’s getting into the post. I mean, he’s just playing very well right now. When he’s going nobody can stop him.”
Wade's been sharp when finishing at the cup (70.6 percent inside the restricted area) or when pulling up from midrange (45.7 percent). He's shown the patience to let plays develop and the willingness to make them, as he did when audibling out of a shot attempt in favor of lofting a lob to rim-punishing center Hassan Whiteside, who'd finish with 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, albeit with seven turnovers, in 30 minutes:
None of this is especially surprising, of course; Wade has made the latter stages of a Hall of Fame career out of being able to get wherever he wants to go on the court and produce efficiently, even amid declining athleticism and persistent leg injuries. Still, it's heartening to see Wade look sharper, smoother and, if not necessarily more explosive, then at least still capable of dictating the pace of play and the terms of engagement as he approaches 34 years of age and works his way through the one-year contract he inked this summer.
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Even more heartening for Heat fans: Wade and Dragic shined together on Thursday, as the $90 million point guard added 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting with three rebounds and two assists in 32 1/2 minutes of work. The Wade-Dragic backcourt had been offensively potent but defensively leaky through four games — entering Thursday, Miami had outscored opponents by three points per 100 possessions when that tandem's shared the floor, comfortably below its +4.5 points-per-100 overall season net rating — but the vets mopped the floor with the young Wolves at Target Center. The Heat scored 50 points in 23 minutes of Wade-Dragic time, outscoring Minnesota by 19 points in that span.
"Tonight, they were able to be who they are," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said after the game, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel. "And they didn't feel like they were taking turns."
“D-Wade played an unbelievable game,” Dragic said, according to Navarro of the Herald. “It’s easier now. Now we’re getting to the spots. Before I think some our problem was if I was penetrating or D-Wade, we didn’t have the spacing. It was crowded to make a play or pass out. Now everybody is in the right spots and it’s easier.”
Even, apparently, from spots that are on the other side of half-court.
"It was a good moment," Wade said, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. ''I just watched it on Instagram and I [saw] the team. A lot of guys knew it was in when I shot it. Just a cool moment."
And a pretty sweet way of keeping your numbers up, to boot.
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