All-Star guard Dwyane Wade returned from a six-game injury absence with 28 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 99-89 win over the New York Knicks in an up-tempo encounter on Friday.
Wade had been sidelined with an ankle injury, but already looked back to his best as he and LeBron James (31 points) racked up 10 dunks and 59 points between them to condemn the Knicks to their eighth loss in nine games.
At times, the Wade-James combination looked the best it has done this season and left Miami coach Erik Spoelstra purring.
“They did a very good job of playing off each other, getting out in the open court, playing off each other on cuts in the half court and one guy being aggressive and the other guy playing off that,” Spoelstra said. “Then there at the end LeBron really has taken another step forward in terms of his aggressiveness.”
New York were without their leading forward Carmelo Anthony, who sat out the game with a wrist and ankle injuries and they relied heavily on three-point shots — attempting 43 of them, the most in any NBA game this season, making 18.
Bill Walker top scored for the Knicks with 21 points — all of them from beyond the arc — for New York, who have just one win this season over a team with a .500 record.
While the Knicks struggle, Miami, who have won five of their past six games at their American Airlines Arena, are starting to click and were clearly delighted to have Wade back.
Spoelstra revealed after the game that the Heat had decided to give Wade an extended break in order to get his physical condition back to its best.
“We had a collective franchise decision on this — we were going to make sure that we would get his body right,” he said. “In normal years he would probably have tried to play in the Lakers game [on Jan. 20], but we held him out another week just to make sure he felt right.”
Wade shot 11 of 19 on field goals and was on court for 32 minutes looking sharp from the outset with an early dunk that brought a huge roar from the crowd.
The Heat are now set for a clash with Eastern Conference leaders the Chicago Bulls today, a repeat of last season’s Conference Finals which Miami won before going on to lose to Dallas in the NBA Finals.
In other games, it was:
‧ Bulls 107, Bucks 100
‧ Nuggets 96, Raptors 81
‧ Mavericks 116, Jazz 101
‧ Thunder 120, Warriors 109
‧ Timberwolves 87, Spurs 79
‧ Celtics 94, Pacers 87
‧ Hawks 107, Pistons 101, OT
‧ Trail Blazers 109, Suns 71
‧ 76ers 89, Bobcats 72
‧ Hornets 93, Magic 67
‧ Nets 99, Cavaliers 96
‧ Rockets 103, Wizards 76