NBA Playoffs 2018: 1 reason ‘classic Dwyane Wade’ is so difficult to defend
NBA Playoffs 2018: Sixers vs. Heat in Game 2
Gallery: NBA Playoffs 2018: Sixers vs. Heat in Game 2
PHILADELPHIA — Analytics and new coaching methods have brought changes to basketball strategy in recent years, but Dwyane Wade hasn’t abandoned his old on-court habits.
Let’s put it like this: The 36-year-old guard’s playing style was grandfathered into the modern NBA.
And Wade turned back the clock Monday night to score 28 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 113-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series. The Heat’s win evened the series at one game apiece, and it came on the strength of a veteran guard who defies now-conventional basketball wisdom.
Statistics show the most efficient shots are layups and dunks or 3-pointers — preferably corner threes. Teams across the league have molded their rosters to take advantage of that. The Sixers practice with a four-point line to promote spacing and reinforce the importance of deep balls and the Raptors had to retrain star guards DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry to avoid mid-range jump shots.
But Wade terrorized the Sixers on Monday night by taking the type of attempts that would drive analytic gurus mad. He connected on 7 of 8 shots from outside of the paint but inside of the 3-point arc.
“It’s true,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “There were a lot of long twos.”
Those long twos are widely considered poor shot choices, but Wade emerged as an NBA star before advanced statistics and the Golden State Warriors arrived to reshape the sport. When Wade won his first title in 2006, teams often isolated their best players and asked them to score by any means, eschewing the need to focus on 3-pointers or establish crisp ball movement.
So here’s the thing: The Sixers aren’t accustomed to defending a player who relies on jump shots inside the 3-point line. Most teams don’t attempt them often (for instance, the Sixers made only six such shots Monday, one less than Wade did by himself) and coaches teach defenders to force those long twos.
But Wade’s a three-time NBA champion and a 12-time NBA All-Star. He does a lot of things other players can’t, and he arrived in Miami in February with the idea of doing exactly what he accomplished Monday: Carrying the Heat to playoff wins.
“It’s just in my DNA,” Wade said. “I love this stage.”
Dwyane Wade lifts Miami Heat over Sixers, says he was brought in to close out games
Wade’s experience, his role as a designated closer off the bench and his steady demeanor all pose challenges for the Sixers. And when you consider Philadelphia isn’t entirely familiar with Wade’s style of play, it’s easy to see why the team could have trouble containing him.
On several occasions Tuesday, Wade slivered into an open space and hoisted a shot many experts would consider unwise. It’s just that savvy veteran kept on making those buckets.
And moving forward, as the series shifts to Miami, the young Sixers must adjust.
“We gotta do a little bit better job of recognizing how [Wade] got to floor spots, especially on middle pick-and-rolls and do a better job with that,” Brown said. “But … the main things that is on my mind is that that is classic Dwyane Wade.”