Dallas, Texas – In his last visit to the American Airlines Center, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade took a final victory lap against the team he beat for his first NBA championship.
Wade, who is retiring after the season, played 22 minutes and scored 22 points in a 112-101 victory over the Dallas Mavericks and fellow soon-to-be retiree Dirk Nowitzki. And while Wade was listed as questionable to start the game, it only made sense to close the chapter on a venue that bore witness to several hard fought matches during the 2006 and 2011 NBA Finals.
Ironically, Wade and Nowitzki entered the game during the first quarter together. With a rowdy crowd, it was a memorable moment as the opposing duo battled down the stretch for baskets. In an iconic snapshot of the game during the first period, Dirk pulled a fade away jumper over Wade that sent the home crowd into a reminiscent tizzy.
It was small moments that highlighted two humble winners rallying around their respective teams throughout the night that kept the game interesting. Miami forward Kelly Olynyk and guard Dion Walters managed 10 points apiece, which allowed Wade to gain some valuable breathing time during the first half. Dallas’ Tim Hardaway Jr. and Luka Doncic scored 14 points apiece at the half, giving the Mavs a 58-57 lead.
Going into the third stanza, the Mavs defense began to falter. Miami guard Josh Richardson scored nine points in the quarter, and Miami also had an answer to Doncic’s dangerous pick and roll attack.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle added that there was a combination of the Heat’s tougher defense that took Dallas out of the game,
“… They mixed their defenses well, had a good shot making night and we didn’t,” Carlisle said. “One of the problems, I think, was that we allowed our lack of shot making [to] affect our defense, and then you get into the real problem.”
In the end, Wade fittingly got the storybook ending of the night. Before the game, he told the press that he would like to trade jerseys with Dirk. After the game, Dirk and Dwayne walked to center court and handed each other their jerseys.
Nowitzki had a little humor during his interview with the media after the game on exchanging jerseys with Wade.
With nostalgia gleaming in his eyes and a smile on his face, Wade was aglow.
“My best jersey swap of the year… He’s a hall of famer, somebody that I am obviously so proud of and have so much respect for,” Wade said afterwards. “I’m just glad he didn’t turn me down and say no.”
Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra added post-game to Wade’s ability to overcome a rough day to play on Wednesday.
“He is always able to rise to the occasion, no matter how he’s feeling. This is a special place for our team to play at. His level of play was infectious to the team.”
Both Wade and Nowitzki’s paths will cross again at this season’s All-Star game. Wade will participate in his 13th All Star Game, while Nowitzki will participate in his 14th All Star Game along with the three-point shooting contest.