Riding Wade’s wave, Heat snap 5-game losing streak
MIAMI — A quiet night for Dwyane Wade on the stat sheet still produced plenty of loud moments in his first game back with the Heat.
Wade received a standing ovation when he entered the game off the bench in the first quarter and the crowd roared when he came up with a key block late in the game.
There were other moments throughout as Wade’s mere presence got a rise out of Heat fans, and teammates Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson led the way to a 91-85 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday that snapped a five-game losing streak and capped a celebratory night.
“It felt like a playoff game,” Whiteside said. “The fans were in an uproar. It felt like a playoff game and Miami was just rocking. It hadn’t felt like that in a while here.”
Wade scored three points on 1-of-6 shooting with two assists, one rebound, a key late block, and four turnovers in 22 minutes. He was acquired in a trade from Cleveland on Thursday. Wade played 13 seasons and won three NBA championships with the Heat before leaving for Chicago as a free agent in 2016.
“I would love to go 6 for 6, but I was just trying to get used to everything so I wasn’t worried about that,” Wade said.
“I was worried about getting the win. I felt like I did some positive things on the basketball floor and I felt like I did some negative things on the basketball floor, but I tried to make winning ways defensively and offensively when I got an opportunity and that’s what it’s all about. I’ll definitely get better and I’ll definitely score the ball more and all of those things at some point. Tonight I thought was a success because we got the W.”
Even with the anxiety and excitement circulating the arena, Wade was relatively calm and free of nerves.
“I was telling Spo (coach Erik Spoelstra) after the game that I actually felt normal,” Wade said. “He said he felt a little weird seeing me on the bench to start the game, but I actually felt normal. Once the game starts, it becomes a game and you get into it.”
Johnson scored 19 points and Whiteside scored 12 points and had 16 rebounds. Bam Adebayo added 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Josh Richardson chipped in 16 points for Miami, which received the jolt Wade hoped with his arrival.
“What a terrific day, the last 24 hours and then to culminate in a win like this after five straight losses, it’s what our organization needed for the moment,” Spoelstra said. “Obviously it was special to have Dwyane back in uniform, back on our side in front of the home fans. It felt exactly the way it should. It felt normal. It felt like home. It felt like family. It felt all the things you came to expect with Dwyane.”
All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Bucks, who lost for just the second time in nine games under interim head coach Joe Prunty.
“It was a good atmosphere to play the game,” Prunty said. “You would expect that, something you would anticipate.”
The Heat trailed 9-0 to start the game, with fans growing restless to see the return of the franchise’s favorite son. They chanted, “We want Wade!”
“The chants kind of started a little too early,” Wade laughed. “I was like no, not right now, not right now.”
Wade entered midway through the first quarter and received a standing ovation from the crowd. He immediately made an impact throwing a lob to Whiteside for a dunk on his first possession as the fans roared.
Minutes later, Wade took his first shot, a 3 from the right wing, and drilled it bringing the crowd to its feet.
“This is kind of environment we’ve got to get used to playing in,” Wade said. “It was good. From start to finish the crowd was amazing. I definitely miss this crowd. I saw a lot of familiar faces.”
There were other moments in the first half, too. A no-look alley-oop pass in transition to Johnson for a dunk and another lob to Whiteside for a dunk.
“It was exciting,” Whiteside said. “He’s a Hall of Fame talent. His IQ is amazing so he knows when to look at the spots and knows when to throw it and make the right decisions.”
Milwaukee was able to cut the deficit to 85-78 with 1:28 left.
More “We want Wade” chants rang out in the closing minutes with Wade on the bench as the Bucks inched closer. Eric Bledsoe hit a 3 to pull the Bucks within 85-81.
After a turnover by Richardson, Wade blocked a layup attempt by Bledsoe and Wayne Ellington drilled a 3 to help seal the victory.
“I got a chance to time it and it felt like old times,” Wade said.
Bucks: John Henson (hamstring) returned after a one-game absence. Henson was hit with a technical foul in the first quarter when he slammed the scorer’s table in frustration. … The Bucks are allowing 95.4 points in Prunty’s nine games as interim head coach.
Heat: Kelly Olynyk (left shoulder strain) missed his second consecutive game. . The Heat were able to include Wade and Luke Babbitt, who was acquired in a trade on Thursday, in their new “Vice” intro video with Wade smiling at the end drawing a loud cheer from the fans. . Goran Dragic was presented with the Euroscar European Player of the Year award before the game.
LEBRON HAPPY FOR WADE
LeBron James weighed in on Wade returning to the Heat:
“I’m happy as hell for D-Wade. He gets to go back home and that’s how it should be. I’ve always felt like that’s where his heart and his mind was and I think it’s going to be great for him. I look forward to seeing the footage of him being announced tonight back in Miami. But, obviously, it’s always, when it’s your brother and you’re around him every day and he has to go back . but at the end of the day, it wasn’t tough. We’re both 15 years in the league. We know how the business is and more importantly, we see each other all the time, anyway. So, get out of here, D-Wade.”
Bucks: Visit Orlando on Saturday.
Heat: Visit Toronto on Tuesday.