This just might be the statistic of the year in the NBA.
Miami Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade – the best player for either team in this playoff series versus the Charlotte Hornets – was 0-for- 2016 from 3-point range.
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He hadn’t made a shot from outside that arc since December and, in his own words, he had a mental block about even attempting them. He took just one in the first five games of this best-of-seven series.
So, of course, he drilled two of them in the fourth quarter in holding off the Hornets 97-90 and forcing a deciding Game 7 in Miami Sunday afternoon.
You can’t make this stuff up. You simply have to make peace with the bizarre. Hornets coach Steve Clifford voraciously watches video of his team and their opponents. He knew from memory that Wade was all but non-existent in what NBA coaches call “above the break” – beyond the key, essentially.
So of course the wise thing to do against one of the strongest guards in the NBA his to defend the drive or the pull-up. And the second time Wade made a 3, the Hornets’ Courtney Lee was draped on him like a linen suit.
It was going to take something super human by Wade to extend this series because in the fourth quarter Hornets point guard Kemba Walker was everywhere.
The Hornets have a slogan – “It’s time to win” – that various players recite to Walker to make sure he understands they understand. He is the guy equipped to take them home in the fourth quarter.
Walker was exceptional overall, but never more so than in the game’s final 12 minutes. He scored 14 of his career playoff-best 37 points in the final quarter.
It was a play with 14 seconds left, and the Hornets trailing by five, that settled this one. Walker drove on Wade and Wade blocked a layup at the rim. The crowd – a Time Warner Cable Arena NBA game record 19,636 – raged that no foul was called on Wade.
But this was parallel to Wade feeling he was fouled late in the Hornets’ Game 5 victory – similar time and similar proximity to the rim. No whistles on that one either, and the NBA confirmed the next day that referees correctly made no call.
(The difference, I guess, is I doubt one of Walker’s relatives will go on a Twitter rant the way Wade’s wife did. But that’s another story.)
The Hornets have four players who are essential to outscoring the Heat and winning Game 7: Walker, center Al Jefferson, guard Jeremy Lin and small forward Nic Batum.
Jefferson gave his all Friday, scoring 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. Big Al schooled Heat center Hassan Whiteside on two low-post moves and Whiteside, who grew up in Gastonia, fouled out with about three minutes left.
Lin has had great impact, particularly in earning trips to the foul line. But he simply didn’t have it Friday, shooting 1-of-8 from the field.
Batum is a whole different issue. His left foot, which he severely strained in Game 2, grew sore and swollen again during the day Friday. He told coach Steve Clifford at halftime he was probably hurting more than helping. He sat out the entire fourth quarter.
Is Batum done for the series? He says he’ll try to play Sunday but the question is less about what he can tolerate in pain as it is what Clifford can tolerate in immobility.
And that’s a guy you really can’t afford to lose when Wade is making pressure 3s.