Dwyane Wade watched the 3-pointer drop perfectly through the net, then turned upcourt and extended the fingers on his right hand.
And he screamed.
“In kid-friendly terms,” Wade would say later, “I was telling him he was hot.”
That hand – that player – had never been hotter in a postseason game, either. And that’s why Miami’s season isn’t over.
Playing what might have been his final game in Miami, Wade scored 46 points, 30 in the second half – both franchise records – and the Heat beat the Boston Celtics 101-92 on Sunday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. He made 16 of 24 shots, 5 of 7 from 3-point range, and outscored the Celtics 19-15 in the fourth quarter.
“Phenomenal,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
“Greatness,” offered Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Heat forward Quentin Richardson went even further, likening his teammate to a superhero.
“Sometimes, you know, he puts on the cape, man,” Richardson said. “There’s not a lot of things you can do when he’s playing that way.”
Boston would concur.
The Celtics still lead the best-of-7 series 3-1, and get a chance to close it out in Boston on Tuesday night. But their worst fear came true Sunday.
Miami has hope.
“They did what they were supposed to do, which is defend the home court,” Celtics forward Kevin Garnett said. “And now we’re thinking the same thing going back home.”
Richardson scored 20 points and Michael Beasley added 15 for the Heat, who wasted an 18-point, first-half lead before digging deep to extend the season.
Rajon Rondo led the Celtics with 23 points. Garnett had 18 points and 12 rebounds, Paul Pierce scored 16 and Ray Allen added 15 for Boston, which was bidding for its first 4-0 sweep of a series since 1986.
“It’s not a big deal,” Rondo said. “We just have to close it out now in five. We’re confident.”
Wade shot 5 for 6 in the fourth quarter and made all four 3-pointers, all coming in a 5-minute stretch and the last putting Miami up 93-82 with 6:12 remaining.
“I just thought, time to be aggressive,” Wade said. “Very aggressive. So I was shooting all those shots, no matter what was going to happen. And I started to make a couple, so I got hot at the right time. Just wanted to will my team to this victory.”
The Celtics were 6-0 against Miami this season, and had won 14 of the last 15 between the clubs since April 2007.
Wade will opt to become a free agent after the season, and on the chance that this was his final home game in Miami, it was nothing short of scintillating.
“He just put it all on his shoulders,” Pierce said. “And did a good job of it.”
Cavaliers 121, Bulls 98: At Chicago, LeBron James had 37 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds, Antawn Jamison added 24 points and Cleveland beat Chicago to go up 3-1 in the first-round series.
The Cavaliers led by 10 at halftime after scoring 38 in the second quarter and broke it open with a 37-point third, putting them in position to close out the series at home Tuesday.
James was at it again after scoring 40 and 39 the previous two games, connecting whenever he wanted and from wherever he wanted. He was 6 of 9 on 3-pointers, including a jumper from just inside midcourt at the end of the third that made it 99-76.
Chicago got 21 apiece from Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, who also pulled down 20 rebounds.
Spurs 92, Mavericks 89: At San Antonio, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili struggled but George Hill picked up the slack with 29 points as San Antonio beat Dallas to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
The Spurs have won three straight since coach Gregg Popovich called his role players “dogs,” and they’ve put the Mavs on the edge of their third first-round exit in four years.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Dallas.
Duncan had four points and made just 1 of 9 shots, Tony Parker scored just 10 points off the bench and Ginobili scored 17 but made just 4 of 16 shots. But Dallas couldn’t take advantage, blowing a 14-point third-quarter lead.
Dirk Nowitzki and Caron Butler had 17 apiece for Dallas.
Jazz 117, Nuggets 106: At Salt Lake City, Carlos Boozer had 31 points and 13 rebounds, Deron Williams added 24 points and 13 assists, and Utah held off a late charge to beat Denver for a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference series.
Carmelo Anthony finished with 39 points and led the Nuggets back within range late in the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets never caught all the way up and lost for the third straight time.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Denver, where the Nuggets will need to win to stay alive.