SAN ANTONIO — “Flash’’ on one night. Flash in the pan the very next.
Dwyane Wade just can’t give the Miami Heat a monumental game out of his past every single night out.
When the Heat tied the Finals against the Spurs on Thursday night, he was every bit the superstar his teammates still call “Flash.’’ In fact, LeBron James gave him his highest praise by using the term “’06 Flash” to describe his teammate’s best performance of the 2013 playoffs.
“That dude was amazing,’’ James said.
But when the Heat tries to go up 3-2 on Sunday at the AT&T Center, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Wade goes back to being the struggling player whose star has considerably faded since he was the Finals MVP in 2006 against Dallas.
More times than not, he hasn’t been “’06 Flash.’’
The root of Wade’s problem isn’t just that he’s been in the league for 10 seasons and turned 31 in January, with a lot of extra mileage showing because of his extensive playoff resume and all of those Team USA games and practices in the Summer Olympics. As everyone knows, he’s been battling an injury to his right knee for a while now, often reducing his impact.
“Yeah, he’s hurting, of course he’s hurting,’’ James said after Wade had his throwback game. “He’s been playing with a bum knee all year. He’s hurting, but he’s not making no excuses about it.’’
True, he makes no excuses. But he hasn’t been playing with the injury all season. Although no one has pinpointed with any certainty when he suffered what the Heat is calling a bone bruise, but could be more serious, it apparently happened on March 18 during a two-point victory at Boston — win No. 23 during the Heat’s 27-game winning streak.
Since then, he’s been hit-or-miss, with a lot of misses coming in the Heat’s first 19 playoff games. Before coming out of nowhere to score 32 points and get six steals, six rebounds and four assists in almost 40 minutes, Wade had been no better than mediocre in these Finals.
AARON M. SPRECHER/EPA
Wade schools Gary Neal on a drive to the basket, showing no signs of weakness from the bone bruise on his knee.
But how much did anyone really dwell on Wade’s struggles, since all the focus has rightfully been on James’ declining play in the first three games?
Then came a play in Game 4 when Wade stole the ball from Danny Green, went the length of the court and executed his patented “step-through’’ move, the one Magic Johnson made famous in the ’80s, when Gary Neal tried to steal the ball. Not only did he fake Neal out of his pants by going over the Spur with the ball to avoid the strip, he then exploded off the floor to throw down a dunk.