DALLAS — Dwyane Wade was very dismissive of the “fun-loving story” about the fever and sinus infection that slowed Dirk Nowitzki during Game 4 of the NBA Finals, then he decided to make light of it when he showed up at American Airlines Center on Thursday for the morning shootaround in advance of Game 5. Wade and LeBron James playfully mocked Nowitzki’s illness as they walked through the tunnel, covering their mouths and coughing into their T-shirts and giggling.
“Do you think I’m sick,” Wade asked James before laughing.
A few hours later, Wade didn’t have to ask anyone if they thought he was ailing as Wade grimaced on his back in front of the Miami bench before leaving the game momentarily with a left hip contusion. This came after Wade collided with Mavericks reserve Brian Cardinal late in the first quarter of a 112-103 loss.
Wade finished with a team-high 23 points but wouldn’t discuss the extent of the injury after the game. He dealt with a left shoulder injury in the Eastern Conference finals and never leaned on it as an excuse. With an extra day of rest between games, Wade said he expects to be ready on Sunday, when Miami, facing elimination, hosts the Mavericks in Game 6.
“I don’t talk about injuries,” Wade said. “It was unfortunate I had to leave the game. But I came back and I finished it.”
Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra started Mike Miller in place of Wade at the beginning of the third quarter, but Wade returned with the Heat down, 75-71. He helped Miami come back and gave his team a 99-95 lead with a three-pointer with 4:37 left in the game, posing and growling on his way back down the floor.
“I can come out and help my team with my presence on the floor,” Wade said. “I’m smart enough to play the game without obviously being 100 percent. That’s all I did when I came back. I want to help us get back in this ball game, and I was able to be effective in a sense.”
Wade, the 2006 Finals most valuable player, has been Miami’s only reliable source of offense in this series, as he leads all scorers at 28.4 points per game. But after the Heat fell behind three games to two against the Mavericks, Wade sounded more frustrated that Miami couldn’t find a way to close out the past two games in Dallas.
“It's unfortunate,” Wade said. “Obviously we put ourselves in a position on the road, especially to win games. We haven’t been able to do that. That’s been our staple. That’s the reason we’re here. The good thing about life and the good thing about this game, we get another opportunity, another crack at it.
We know it’s the thing that’s going to either lose or win us a championship. It comes down to either not closing out games or closing it out. We have another game Sunday to be able to do that.”
Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd has two Finals losses on his resume — his New Jersey Nets got swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2002 and lost in six games to San Antonio in 2003 — and he has never been this close to winning an NBA championship. After waiting 17 seasons to reach this point, Kidd wasn’t going to allow himself to think ahead.
“I’m just staying in the moment and understanding we have to find a way to win come Sunday,” Kidd said. “When you come into this league, you feel that you can always win a championship. You just don't understand when you’re young the competition and the level that you have to play with — and play as a team.”