A great player can't always win a playoff series by himself. But when that great player is Dwyane Wade, a single-game performance like he had Sunday is par for the course. It's hard to be surprised when Wade, with his team's back to the wall, springs to life in a big game like this. It was bound to happen.
"Give him credit," Doc Rivers said after Wade exploded for 46 points in Miami's Game 4 win. "Wade was phenomenal. He made shots. He had to make them, and he made them. We have to do something about it, though. We have to defend him better."
But what can you do? It's not like the Celtics weren't trying. They threw everything they could at Wade, and it just wasn't enough. When Miami went for the pick and roll, the Celtics were quick to switch from man to man, always keeping a body on Wade. When Wade stepped out for a 3, the C's had someone there to contest it. Everything Wade did, he did it in defiance of every ounce of defensive energy the Celtics could muster. This time, it just wasn't enough.
"I got hot at the right time," Wade said. "I just wanted to will my team to this victory. We lost a tough game in Game 3. I felt that we could have won it, but the basketball gods weren't on our side. But we're going to always fight. We continued to fight tonight, and I finally had a good shooting night the way I wanted to, in the fourth quarter. Been looking for that for a while."
Indeed, the fourth quarter was when Wade truly shined. He started the period with 27 points, already a game high. He piled on 19 more in the final 12 minutes to reach 46, his career playoff high. He knocked down deadly jump shots on each of Miami's first three possessions in the fourth. The Heat started the quarter down six, at 77-71 — thanks to Wade, they erased that deficit in a hurry. From there, the Heat just rode Wade's relentless aggression to the 101-92 win.
"He has another gear and another depth to go into in his soul, to be able to dig it out and really carry a team on his back with his will," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's what he did tonight. When he plays like that, certainly everybody has an energy and a passion around him. You believe."
Spoelstra and the Heat believed they could get this one, even when no one else did. But Miami came out in Game 4 on a mission — to prove there's no such thing as an insurmountable lead. One step at a time, this team was going to fight back.
"I know a lot of people expected us to roll over tonight, just give them the series because they're up 3-0," Wade said. "That weighed heavily on my mind. I'm just not ready for the summer yet. We have a fight ahead of us in Game 5, but they have a fight ahead of them as well."
The Celtics' fight will be to slow the momentum of a guy who's absolutely killed them all week. He's only gotten better as the series has gone on — he's gone off each game for 26, 29, 34 and now 46 points. If you're the Celtics, you can only fear what he's got in store for you next.
"He's hurt us this entire series," Rivers said. "We just have to do a better job, somehow."
Somehow. If Rivers knew how, his job would be a whole lot easier.