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Ethan Skolnick: Dwyane Wade flashes his old form while Miami Heat teammates struggle early


As Dwyane Wade kept rising up Tuesday, he was really taking everyone back.

He was taking everyone back to his younger days, before the bumps, the bruises, the strains, the doubts, the rest. He was taking everyone back to a time when he rose up like this regularly, soaring over Monta Ellis, corralling the carom, slamming it down, rousing the crowd.

And so, while most will focus on the Heat’s fourth-quarter surge that occured with Wade watching LeBron James and four subs, the guard’s role in the 98-86 victory over Milwaukee should be properly recognized.

More than anything, it should be highly encouraging.

After all, for everything he did in Game 2 — the cutting, the dunking, the driving, the Eurostep, even the vintage bank shot — he continues to insist that he’s still not quite himself. That, even after a night that James credited him for “flying around,” he continues to suggest that the ceiling’s not close.

He continues to suggest that, even after flashing the athleticism that many assume is absent.

“He’s giving us what he can right now,” said coach Erik Spoelstra, whose club now leads the series 2-0. “He’s doing it in an efficient manner.

“He had a couple of great defensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. The biggest thing we’re able to do right now is run offense through him, even if it’s not of the spectacular variety.”

Still, some of it was.

“Hopefully, I continue to feel better,” Wade said, referring to the bone bruise in his right knee that played a role in him sitting nine of the final 15 regular-season games.

“But right now, just trying to do what I can, to help this team win. In spurts. When I felt our flow was down a little bit, I decided to bring a little energy, be a little aggressive.”

And what if he does feel better?

“No telling what he can do at that point,” James said.

He did nothing less Tuesday than keep the Heat on course against a frisky opponent for the first three quarters, as James often, oddly, appeared mortal, Chris Bosh drifted, the shooters were erratic from outside and the defensive rotations were sometimes less than crisp.

After Ellis outscored him Sunday for the first time in 12 career meetings, Wade shut him out 12-0 in the first half, on the way to a 21-7 edge.

This was the same Ellis, who, earlier this season, comically declared that all that separated Wade from him were the latter’s wins and championships — just as a lounge singer might declare that the only things separating Paul McCartney were the gold records and the knighthood.

But Wade has shown, time and again, throughout his career and again this season, that — for most contemporaries — he is still beyond compare. He has demonstrated that it’s too soon to count him out, that he’s not comfortable completely ceding the stage. He has proven that even when he hasn’t been right, as he wasn’t during the second-round series in Indiana last spring, and as he apparently isn’t now.

How was he Tuesday?

“Better than last game, and hopefully it will be better in Game 3,” Wade said.

How much?

“Hopefully, a lot,” Wade said. “I’m not where I want to be.”

Thursday, he’ll be in his college town of Milwaukee.

Two wins from a precious week of rest.

James on Brown: The surprising results of the Cavs’ coach search had implications in South Florida. Cleveland chose to bring back Mike Brown, who coached James for five seasons, then was fired as James was making his free agency decision.

James can opt out of his contract after the 2013-14 season, and some have speculated he could return to Cleveland. While there were reports that his relationship with Brown was strained, James was diplomatic before Tuesday’s game.

“I’m happy for him,” James said. “I think he’s a really good coach, a very defensive-minded coach.”


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