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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Cruel to blame Wade for Heat's Game 4 cooldown


DALLAS -- After what he did in Game 4, after his Miami Heat lost 86-83 to the Mavericks, Dwyane Wade deserves the same treatment another guy received after Game 3. No, not LeBron. Wade doesn't deserve the LeBron James treatment today.

He deserves the Dirk Nowitzki treatment.

Because like Nowitzki in Game 3, when the Dallas forward was the best player on the court until the final 30 seconds -- when he screwed up big-time -- Wade was the best player on the court Tuesday night in Game 4. Until the final 30 seconds. When he screwed up big time.

After Game 3, Nowitzki got a pass from the media. Who was going to attack Dirk that night, even if he did have a turnover and a missed shot in the final 30 seconds? Before those 30 seconds, Nowitzki had 34 points and 11 rebounds. Before those 30 seconds, Nowitzki scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, including his team's final 12. Criticize Dirk? For what -- for carrying his team for only 47½ minutes? Nonsense. So nobody really did it.

Dwyane Wade deserves the same consideration today.

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Because until the final 30 seconds of Game 4, Dwyane Wade was tremendous. At both ends of the court, since this is, as we all know, a two-way game. And Wade is a two-way player. He reminded us of that in Game 4, but not with words. He didn't have to tell us about his two-way play. He showed us. Wade had 32 points -- on 13-for-20 shooting -- six rebounds and two assists. He had two steals. He blocked two shots, including a denial of a dunk by 7-foot-1 Mavs center Tyson Chandler.

Dwyane Wade was Secretariat, and everyone else on his team was carrying a saddle. Well, everyone but Chris Bosh, who had 24 points. Bosh didn't distinguish himself on the boards, though, grabbing just six in 42 minutes while allowing many of Chandler's 16 rebounds -- nine on the offensive boards. Given the rebounding issue, Bosh was good, not great. But at least he was good.

Nobody else on the Heat was even good.

Nobody but Wade, who was great -- Hall of Fame great. Until the final 30 seconds, when he made two killer mistakes.

First he missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 82 with 30.1 seconds left. By hitting just one of two shots from the line, Wade allowed the Mavericks to take possession with an 82-81 lead. Nowitzki, playing with an illness and -- lest you've forgotten -- a torn tendon in his left middle finger, drove on Udonis Haslem for a basket and an 84-81 lead with 14.4 seconds left.

Wade then drove quickly for a dunk, a gimme basket Dallas was in position to surrender thanks to his missed free throw earlier. Dallas gave. Wade took. The score was 84-83, Mavericks. Two free throws by Jason Terry made it 86-83, giving the Heat 6.7 seconds to find a 3-pointer for the tie.

They found one, but not a good one. It was a heave at the horn by Mike Miller that hit nothing, a hopeless shot because of a baffling mistake by the best player for most of this game. I'm talking about Wade.

Miller's inbounds pass went to Wade at the top of the key, 25 feet from the basket, but he inexplicably dropped it, booting it nearly 25 feet farther away.

"Great pass," Wade said. "I just fumbled it. I was kind of anxious because I saw an opening real fast."

Wade scrambled after the loose ball, diving to save it from a backcourt violation -- blindly shoveling it in the direction of Miller. That left Miller with two seconds to navigate 35 feet and the 7-footer, Chandler. Miller could manage only one dribble and a running 3-pointer. Air ball. Horn. Game.

And we have a tied series, two games apiece.

Because Dwyane Wade choked down the stretch? You could say that, if you wanted to be cruel. Or more to the point, if you wanted to discount the previous 47½ minutes. Or even the previous 10 minutes. See, in the last 10 minutes, not a single Miami player scored a field goal but Wade. The last non-Wade bucket came from Haslem with 10:12 to play. That gave the Heat a 74-65 lead. This game was getting out of hand.

Or would have gotten out of hand, had the rest of Wade's teammates given him any help at all. James had a turnover, a middle-school up-and-down where he left his feet 30 feet from the basket, no options to be had. Then James had another turnover, a bad pass to Bosh. Speaking of Bosh ... he missed two jumpers and had a turnover. Miller missed two shots and had a turnover. Haslem and James missed shots. This was all in the final 10 minutes, mind you.

The Miami Heat weren't the Miami Heat. Weren't even The Big Three. The Miami Heat were the Miami Wade. And dammit, that was almost enough. Wade was attacking the rim, finishing above it, below it. With his left hand, his right hand. He was hitting jumpers. He was hitting almost everything.

"Dwyane Wade was having a spectacular game," Terry said.

Yes he was. On defense Wade led all players with his two blocked shots, plus the two steals, plus his defense on Terry and Jason Kidd. Wade wasn't the only one who took Kidd and Terry, but those were the guys he was usually defending -- and they combined for 6-of-18 shooting, six assists, three rebounds and four turnovers.

Dwyane Wade was fabulous. At both ends. For 47½ minutes.

And then he wasn't. For 30 seconds. The most important 30 seconds.

So how should we remember this game for Dwyane Wade? The same way we remembered Nowitzki in Game 3. As the guy who made the wrong mistakes at the wrong time.

But was the best player on the court anyway.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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