Dwyane Wade a game-time decision for Game 4 against Bucks
MILWAUKEE (AP) Now it's Dwyane Wade's turn to make a decision.
The Miami Heat star is getting treatment "around the clock" for his aching right knee, and coach Erik Spoelstra said they'll wait until Sunday to decide whether he'll play in Game 4 against the Milwaukee Bucks. With a chance to close out the series in four games, something the Heat haven't done since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Wade in Miami, he's sure to want to play.
But with the outcome of the series almost inevitable - no team has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series - and so much of the playoffs left, taking a game off might be the wiser option.
"It's very difficult right now because it's the playoffs and tomorrow is never promised. During the regular season, you can really pick and choose your spots," Chris Bosh said after the Heat practiced Saturday. "Now, it's just doing what you're supposed to do off the court as much as possible, and hoping when you play out there in the game, you can play as close to 100 percent as you can.
"It's a very tough position to be in right now," Bosh added. "But Dwyane's a competitor and he'll do best thing for himself and for the team."
Wade missed six games near the end of the regular season with three bone bruises, one each along the top, bottom and one side of his right kneecap. Though he continues to feel better, he got banged around good in Miami's 104-91 victory in Game 3 on Thursday night. He was hit in the knee, face and elbow in just one play, and he'd be sure to face similar contact from the Bucks on Sunday.
Miami didn't practice Friday, but Wade spent several hours at Marquette University, his alma mater, getting treatment. He took part in practice Saturday, though Spoelstra said he sat out the "majority" of the Heat's full-court work.
"We'll just continue to evaluate," Spoelstra said. "He's feeling better than yesterday. Tomorrow, we'll see how he feels with more treatment today and we'll go from there. He's been feeling better, really making progress, for three straight weeks."
Losing a top player during the playoffs is a nightmare scenario for any team. When Bosh missed nine games during last year's playoffs with strained abdominal muscles, the Heat went 5-4 in his absence.
But with the addition of Ray Allen and Chris Andersen, this Miami team is even deeper than the one that won the NBA title last season. Allen is averaging almost 17 points in the first three playoff games, and he picked up the slack when Wade struggled offensively in Game 3. He scored 23 points, and his five 3-pointers gave him 322 for his career, topping Reggie Miller's old playoff record by two.
Andersen has played less than 45 minutes, yet has 31 points and 19 rebounds.
"They've had a huge impact, Andersen, Ray, (Norris) Cole," Milwaukee coach Jim Boylan said.
"Anytime you have a championship team, you're always going to have some `unsung heroes.' They have multiple guys who can do it," Boylan added. "They're a team that's built for a championship."
If Wade can't play, Spoelstra would likely start Mike Miller in his place. Though Miller has played all of 2 minutes and change in the first three games, putting him in the starting lineup instead of, say, Allen would allow the Heat to preserve its typical order of substitutes. And continuity is key at this time of year, which partly explains why the Heat refused to get overly excited at the prospect of this group sweeping its first playoff series.
The Heat have had 3-0 leads in the first round the last two years - Philadelphia in 2011 and the Knicks in 2012 - only to lose Game 4 each time.
"It's the most important game because it's our next game," James said flatly. "That's how we approach this game and we look forward to the challenge."
Added Bosh, "Before we got too much ahead of ourselves. That was a problem. We have to keep playing, keep working the game, and not really think about sweeping people."
Make no mistake, though, the Heat would like to cross a sweep of their "to-do" list. (If nothing else, they'd have at least five full days off before the Eastern Conference semifinals would start.)
"That was our concentration and emphasis today: It's 24 hours to do what we have to do," Spoelstra said. "That's why we don't want to short cut any of the preparation. It's their last stand, we know what that can be like. The last two years, we've lost a game in this situation. Hopefully we can learn from that and find a way to close it out."
Milwaukee, meanwhile, would love nothing more than to extend its season by at least two more days. Game 5 would be Tuesday in Miami.
This is still a relatively young Bucks team with Larry Sanders in only his third season, Brandon Jennings his fourth and Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Mbah a Moute their fifth. It's Milwaukee's first playoff appearance in three years, and the experience, regardless of how long it lasts, will be invaluable.
"Everybody's getting something out of it," coach Jim Boylan said. "We're in the middle of it, but there's time you reflect, you look back, you watch the games and see certain things that happened and you can adjust and make a difference for your team. I'm sure that, at the end of this series - whenever this series is over - all our guys are going to look back and take something positive from it."
But they hope that won't be for a few more days.
"(Sunday) is going to be our fourth game and it could be our last game," Sanders said. "But hopefully guys don't want it to be our last game."
Notes: Bosh sat out some of Miami's full-court work with sore legs, but Spoelstra said everyone but Wade is "ready to go" for Game 4. ... The Bucks have no health issues, Boylan said. ... Sunday's game on ABC is a rare appearance on broadcast television for the Bucks. "With my rabbit ears on my TV, I can get this thing," Boylan cracked.