Wade scored 55 points, one shy of the franchise record, and the Miami Heat wrapped up the No. 5spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs by beating the Knicks 122-105 on Sunday night. The Heatwill visit fourth-seeded Atlanta when the opening playoff round starts this weekend.
"I came in early and I was very focused," Wade said. "My teammates thought something was wrongwith me because I wasn't talking." Nothing was wrong. Not even close.
Wade shot 19-for-30 from the field, set a career high with six 3-pointers, and nearly topped GlenRice's record of 56 points before leaving with 1:06 remaining. Some in the crowd -- even at least onemember of the Heat coaching staff -- wanted Wade to get one more chance at the record, but Heatcoach Erik Spoelstra chose not to take the risk.
"He's broken every other record," Spoelstra said. "Let's leave one of them to Glen Rice." MichaelBeasley finished with 28 points and 16 rebounds for the Heat, who also got 15 points from MarioChalmers. Al Harrington and Wilson Chandler each scored 21 points for New York. Quentin Richardsonfinished with 14 and David Lee had an 11-point, 11-rebound night for the Knicks.
Wade scored for the final time with 5:31 remaining. Only then did the Knicks figure out how to stophim, well after it was too late.
"He just made them all tonight," Harrington said. "When he is hot, you are in for a long night."
Wade's MVP candidacy is so important to the Heat that the franchise took the step -- rare for them-- of campaigning for the award. Last week, the team sent out a promotional DVD to postseasonaward voters, along with a T-shirt and paperweight bearing an "M-V-3" logo, a nod to Wade's jerseynumber.
Now, the DVD is already outdated. This might have been his best show of the season. He was diving on the floor for loose balls, finished with nine rebounds, and dominated the Knicks inMiami for the second time this season.
"He just has a remarkable way of rising to the occasion," Spoelstra said.
It was the 11th 50-point game in the NBA this season, the third by Wade -- matching Cleveland'sLeBron James for the league's high -- and the third against the Knicks. Kobe Bryant got the NBAseason-best point total with 61 in Madison Square Garden on Feb. 2, and James scored 52 at NewYork's famed arena two nights later.
Wade now has six of the eight highest-scoring games in Heat history, four of them this season. Consecutive 3-pointers by Wade late in the third quarter put Miami up 95-87. He reached 50 pointson an 8-footer with 26.4 seconds left in the third quarter, meaning the Heat entered the final periodleading by six, and with the rest of Wade's teammates trailing him by three.
Yes, through three quarters, it was Wade 50, Rest of Heat 47.
He became the first player since Bryant to score 50 before the fourth quarter began. Bryant did itNov. 30, 2006 against Utah, getting 52 through three periods and not playing in the fourth, accordingto the Elias Sports Bureau.
"When you have a guy like him, you can just ride him," D'Antoni said.
And when it was over, the Heat heard quick words from Spoelstra in the locker room, then huddledaround a TV in the training room to see Toronto beat Philadelphia -- clinching the No. 5 spot forMiami. A bit of irony: Former Heat forward Shawn Marion had a steal in the final seconds to ice thatwin for the Raptors.
"We got some help from those guys," said Heat forward Jermaine O'Neal, who was traded to Miamifrom Toronto, with Marion going to the Raptors in February. "And we took care of our business." TheKnicks' season ends Wednesday, and accordingly, they played a loose style.
Larry Hughes intercepted a pass at one end, dribbled the other way and spun a behind-the-back flipto Chris Wilcox -- who ran over Heat forward James Jones on his way to a three-point play thatdrew New York within 37-32 with 11:08 left in the half.
That was part of a big second quarter by the high-octane Knicks, who trailed by as many as 14points in the first half before getting going.
New York managed only 17 points in the game's first 9 minutes, then put up a staggering 48 points in the next 14, taking a 65-63 lead into intermission. The Knicks shot 68 percent in the second quarter alone, with Harrington getting 15 points in one seven-minute stretch of the period.
And yet, they couldn't pull away, simply because they couldn't stop Wade.
He had 27 points by halftime on 10-for-14 shooting, even though he spent the first 5 minutes of the second quarter on the bench. Everything Wade shot seemed like it went in, even a behind-the-backboard attempt midwaythrough the third quarter during a stoppage after a foul. It swished, didn't count, and the crowdcheered anyway.
They kept cheering, all the way to the finish.
The worst team in the NBA last season will end this year as the fifth seed in the East, and Wadedoesn't see any reason for Miami to end its turnaround campaign there.
"This wasn't just another game," Wade said. "This was a very important game for us."