Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said last February that there’s something about Dwyane Wade when he puts on a Miami Heat jersey in front of the Heat’s crowd.

“He becomes very special,” Spoelstra said.

Deja Vu All Over Again

When Coach Spo said that, D-Wade had just scored 27 points and nailed the game-winner as the Heat won 102-101 against, well, the Philadelphia 76ers. On Monday night, it felt like deja vu all over again when Wade scored 28 points in 26 minutes to lead the Heat to a 113-103 win over the Sixers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.

Wade put on a show in the second quarter and put the game away in the fourth as the Heat tied their series at 1-1. He outscored the entire Sixers team 21-20 in the final 15 minutes of the first half, and when the Sixers threatened to 96-98 with less than five minutes to play, Wade took over the game and closed out the show in typical Father Prime fashion.

He stole the ball from Dario Saric and finished off the play with a dunk to give the Heat a 100-96 cushion. On their next possession, Wade delivered the assist to a cutting James Johnson for a dunk that increased their lead to 102-96. After a J.J. Redick miss on the other end, Wade grabbed the offensive rebound off a Goran Dragic miss. That rebound eventually led to a 17-footer by Dragic, 104-96 Heat. And then with 47.9 seconds left in the game, Wade sealed the win with a 20-foot jumper over Ben Simmons.

Turning Back the Hands of Time

At 36, Wade is no longer the Flash who thrilled basketball fans with dazzling moves and high-flying dunks. But while the Flash is gone, the Old Wade still has flashes of brilliance that bring back the Wade of Old. Known now as Father Prime, Dwyane Wade still has the ability to turn back the hands of time.

Wade’s 16 points in Game 2 enabled him to pass Celtics’ legend Larry Bird at 10th place in the NBA’s All-Time playoff scoring list. His 21 first-half points were the most in one half by a Heat player coming off the bench. His 28 points were the most in franchise history by any Heat player in the playoffs. Wade also became the only Heat player to score at least 25 points in a playoff game both while starting and as a reserve.

When the Heat brought back Wade at the trade deadline for a 2024 second-round pick, it was considered primarily as a gesture of goodwill from a franchise to the player who was its first-ever superstar. Wade was made in Miami. He gave the Heat their first-ever NBA title, and then helped them win two more.

Where It All Began

Sure, he left South Beach to play for his hometown Chicago Bulls, then moved on to play for his banana boat brother LeBron James in Cleveland. But there was no more fitting way to end a Hall of Fame career than to do so in the place where it all began. Miami gave him that opportunity, and he is rewarding him with the same brilliance he did 14 years ago.

It helped that the Heat locked down on the Sixers’ shooters, thus limiting Philadelphia’s three-point shooting. During their 17-game winning streak, the Sixers shot an NBA best 40% from the three-point area. On Monday, Miami’s perimeter defense held them to 7-36. Marco Belinelli shot just 2-8, and J.J. Redick went 1-7.

Five other Heat players scored in double digits, helping Father Prime with the scoring load, especially in the third period and the early part of the final quarter. But while the win was a team effort, most only remember the exploits of Wade and how one of the greats of this generation was able to deliver an instant classic.

Sixers Are Still Favorites

The Sixers are still favored to win over the Heat in Game 3 but not that much. Philadelphia is a -135 favorite, while Miami came back at +115. The 76ers have the more talented team in this matchup, but in the playoffs, experience matters more than anything else. Had they won Game 2 and taken a 2-0 lead, this series would probably be over in a hurry. But the longer this series goes, the more advantageous it will be for the Heat.

Miami has been here before, while the young Sixers are still learning postseason basketball on the fly. Sure, they won Game 1 via blowout, but remember that they won 16 games in a row before the playoffs began, so that was probably more of momentum than anything else. But now that their streak has been halted, can they regroup and win again? Or will they buckle under pressure?

Meanwhile, Miami has all the playoff experience in the world, and yes, they also have Dwyane Wade. D-Wade isn’t the best player in this series, but he may be the most valuable. When we talk of championship experience, Dwyane Wade has three championship rings. This entire Sixers team has none.

Home Court Matters

Miami’s American Airlines Arena has always been known to be hostile to visitors, especially in the playoffs, and that could be one big factor in Game 3. The Heat have won 10 of their last 12 games at home, and during the regular season, they won both of their games against the Sixers there.

There may be a chance, no matter how slim, that Joel Embiid returns for the Sixers in Game 3. But even then, Embiid played when the Sixers lost twice to the Heat during the regular season. We’re not saying that the Sixers are good as dead right now. But nobody knows how they will handle the pressure, especially coming into a big game like Game 3 and playing that game in their first-ever playoff road game as a team.

Miami has plenty going for them in Game 3. This is an opportunity for them to really break the Sixers’ back and change the complexion of the series. Not many are giving Miami the chance to go deep in the playoffs. But against an inexperienced team who will probably play without their best player again, we’re picking the Heat to win Game 3 at home.

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