March 17, 2015

MIAMI (AP) LeBron James knows Dwyane Wade's game perhaps better than anyone, so when he saw his former teammate take a pull-up jumper off the glass he was fully aware what that meant.

''You knew he was in a good groove,'' James said.

Indeed Wade was, and he's been there for a couple weeks - his best stretch of the season happening to coincide with a playoffs-or-bust push by the Miami Heat.

His 32-point game on 13 for 18 shooting in Monday's win over Cleveland was vintage, and added to what has Wade on pace for his best scoring month in more than four years. His hot streak comes at the perfect time, with the Heat fighting simply to reach the playoffs for the 11th time in Wade's 12 pro seasons.

''He's been playing great basketball,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''He really has, since he's been able to get into rhythm. He understands moments as much as anybody in this league and what your basketball team needs.''

These days, what Wade's basketball team needs is him at his best.

That's exactly what the Heat are getting.

Entering Tuesday's games, only Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis have better scoring averages so far in March than Wade. He's scored at least 25 points in each of his last six games, and brings a 26.9-point average for the month into Miami's home matchup against Portland on Wednesday night.

''This is who we are right now,'' said Wade, who has missed 18 of Miami's 66 games, mostly because of hamstring issues that kept him from finding a groove until a few weeks ago. ''We have to figure out ways to win. We have enough to win games and we just have to understand that it is hard to win games. We can't just come into a game and figure it out - we have to go from the beginning to the end.''

He's always been a closer, and of late his end-of-game numbers have been as good as they've been in a long time.

Over his last five second halves, Wade is averaging 15 points on 54 percent shooting - numbers way up from the 10-point, 45-percent clip he was on after intermissions until this stretch. But that doesn't mean he's exclusively waiting until the final minutes; Wade had 16 points in the second quarter in Monday's 106-92 win, helping the Heat take control over the Cavs.

''He's been in a good groove the last couple of weeks and he did it again,'' James said afterward, his words serving as a tip-of-the-cap to his close friend and former Heat teammate. ''When his pull-up is going you can't do much with him. ... It was good to see him playing with a bounce in his step for sure.''

The last time Wade scored this well over a full month was January 2011, when he averaged 28.8 points in the first season of the ''Big 3'' era in Miami with him playing alongside James and Chris Bosh.

James is back in Cleveland now, Bosh is out for the season because of blood clots on one of his lung.

So Wade - unexpectedly - is back to where he was before they all teamed up, trying to carry the Heat. And right now, he's getting it done.

''D-Wade is a Hall of Famer,'' Heat center Hassan Whiteside said. ''It doesn't surprise me.''

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