NBA Playoffs: Dwyane Wade and the 10 Greatest Performances in Miami Heat History

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IApril 20, 2011

NBA Playoffs: Dwyane Wade and the 10 Greatest Performances in Miami Heat History

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    DALLAS - JUNE 20:  Series MVP Dwyane Wade #3 and Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Miami Heat celebrate together after the Heat defeated the Dallas Mavericks in game six of the 2006 NBA Finals on June 20, 2006 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  The
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Since their inception into the league in the 1988 season, the Miami Heat has been one of the league's most successful teams. At only 23-years young, the Heat have already completed tasks that franchises that have been around for 40 years have yet to complete. Already, the Heat have advanced to three Conference Finals, won at least 60 games and won an NBA Championship. Miami has already had an illustrious career, and it has yet to have a player go to the Hall of Fame.

    In due time, the Heat will have players reach that peak following their retirement, but for now we'll watch as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh earn the Miami Heat some more post season success. With a 2-0 lead on the Philadelphia 76ers, the Heat are only two games away from advancing to the second round for the first time since the 2006 season when they won a title. It was also then that they were a second seed.

    Aside from advancing past the first round, the Heat will also have a legitimate shot of obtaining their second NBA title in franchise history. The team that has now secured a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference after winning 58 games and has already made their presence felt in the postseason with the biggest win in the playoffs yet. With talks of winning multiple championships at their minds, we could be witnessing a dynasty in the making if the Heat can keep up the tempo.

    Even before this superteam was brought together, Miami has seen some of its most successful seasons from individuals who have let their best be seen in the postseason. From Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning in the 1990s to Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal dominating the league for a brief period of time, the Heat have been in this position before and have taken advantage of it. Wade has been here before and could easily lead another team to a title after what he did the last time he was at this stage.

    With so many illustrious performances over the years, it became difficult to narrow the best individual postseason performances in Miami Heat history to only 10, but somehow we did it. Let's see just who the most clutch players are, shall we?

10. Shaquille O'Neal: Game 6 vs the Detroit Pistons

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    MIAMI - NOVEMBER 1:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Miami Heat looks to pass away from the pressure from Antonio McDyess #24 and Tayshaun Prince #22 of the Detroit Pistons at American Airlines Arena November 1, 2007 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expr
    Doug Benc/Getty Images

    When: May 2nd, 2006.

    Circumstances: Game 6 of the conference finals. An NBA Finals date with a victory.

    Stat line: 28 points (12-14), 16 rebounds, five blocks and one assist.

    Final result: Miami 95, Detroit 78

    Probably the last quality year of his career, Shaquille O'Neal made his presence felt in the Miami Heat's first—and only—Conference Finals victory. Playing against the same Detroit Pistons squad that had beaten the Heat in the Conference Finals the year before, O'Neal decided that this series had to end in Game 6 at home to avoid a possible Game 7 date with the No. 1 seeded Pistons back at the Palace at Auburn Hills.

    O'Neal was dominant in the game as he allowed Wade to rest up for their eventual NBA Finals appearance. Shaq dominated renowned defender in Pistons Center Ben Wallace to help put the series on ice. He was helped out by point guard Jason Williams who scored 21 points and only missed two of his 12 shot attempts.

9. Dwyane Wade: Game 1 vs the New Orleans Hornets

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    When: April 18, 2004

    Circumstances: Game 1 of the First Round in the Heat's first return to the postseason since 2001.

    Stat line: 21 points (8-19) (1-2 from deep), five rebounds, five assists and one steal.

    Final result: Miami 81, New Orleans 79

    For most NBA rookies, they'll usually find themselves riding the bench in the final seconds of a decisive playoff game. In the case of the Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, coach Stan Van Gundy elected to not only have him in the game in the final seconds of a tied game, but to also give him the ball and give him the chance to give Miami the victory. Surrounded by veterans, Wade was the one who would determine if Miami would get the win in regulation.

    With 11 seconds on the clock, Wade received the ball off the inbound and eyed down his defender Baron Davis a little beyond the three-point line. Wade used a crossover to shake the veteran and penetrate the Hornets defense and then flipped a shot over the outstretched hands of Jamaal Magloire from a little before the dotted line. In his first postseason game, Wade had given the Heat a victory in the final seconds during a series where the Heat needed every win to escape out of the first round.

    Ice cold from the get go.

8. Dwyane Wade: NBA Finals Game 6 vs the Dallas Mavericks

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    When: May 20, 2006

    Circumstances: A win gives the Heat their first NBA championship and avoids a Game 7 in Dallas.

    Stat line: 36 points (10-18), 10 rebounds, five assists, four steals and three blocks.

    Final result: Miami 95, Dallas 92

    For a player in only his third year in the league and surrounded by veterans who were in this position before, Dwyane Wade could have folded under pressure in one of the Miami Heat's most important games in franchise history. Instead of wilting, Wade flourished during Miami's Game 6 of the NBA Finals. He had already brought the team back from the dead with three consecutive wins and was now given the chance to win the series and the NBA Finals.

    Aside from missing two huge free throws in the final seconds, Wade gave the Heat all they needed to win this game on offense, with him and only two other players scoring in double-figures. Wade did it all in the decisive victory as he unleashed his defensive and offensive qualities to lead the Heat to their first and only championship.

7. Alonzo Mourning: NBA Finals Game 6 vs the Dallas Mavericks

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    When: May 20, 2006

    Circumstances: A win gives the Miami Heat their first NBA championship and also avoids Game 7 in Dallas.

    Stat line: Eight points (3-4), six rebounds and five blocks.

    Final result: Miami 95, Dallas 92

    Think defense doesn't win championships? Don't tell that to Alonzo Mourning.

    After years and years of torment from the likes of the New York Knicks throughout the late-1990s, it seemed that Alonzo Mourning would never be able to secure that coveted NBA title. His retirement appeared to shut the door on the possibility of a title, until he re-joined the Heat in the 2004-05 season. After another year of disappointment where his team lost in Game 7 of the Conference Finals, Mourning decided to stick around for a few more years to secure that title.

    Sure enough, he got it the next year. He wasn't just a veteran riding the coat tails of the younger, more athletic players. either. He was in the game at decisive moments and was even favored over usual starter Shaquille O'Neal just for his defensive presence alone. His five blocks, all around the rim, were key in the Heat's Game 6 victory as Mourning sent back a possible 10 points on five blocks that could have easily given the Mavericks a victory if given the chance to finish the shot.

    Never underestimate the heart of a champion.

6. Tim Hardaway: Game 7 vs the New York Knicks

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    When: May 18, 1997

    Circumstances: A win gives the Miami Heat their first trip to the Conference Finals in franchise history.

    Stat line: 38 points (12-20) (6-10 from deep), seven assists, five steals and three rebounds.

    Final result: Miami 101, New York 90

    And people thought Dwyane Wade was impossible to stop when he gets hot. In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, former Miami Heat point guard Tim Hardaway went absolute berserk from deep against the New York Knicks. With the recently formed duo of Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning, the Heat were able to establish themselves as a legitimate postseason threat as they won 61 games and an eventual date with the Chicago Bulls in the Conference Finals.

    That team from the 1996-97 season should thank Timmy for getting him there, because his three-pointers in the third quarter were some of the best shooting by a player in franchise and NBA postseason history. Hardaway was making every kind of three-pointer—from step back's to pull up's—off of a fast break and was able to give the Heat the separation they needed to pull out a victory over the Knicks in a decisive game seven.

    Maybe this is why the Knicks found a reason to torture the Heat in the postseason for the next few years.

5. Dwayne Wade: Game 4 vs the Washington Wizards

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    MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 25: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat takes an off-balance shot during a game against the Washington Wizards at American Airlines Arena on February 25, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    When: May 14, 2005

    Circumstances: A win gives the Miami Heat a sweep and a chance to rest for the Conference Finals.

    Stat line: 42 points (13-22), seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block.

    Final result: Miami 99, Washington 95

    Leave it up to Dwyane Wade to give the Miami Heat their franchise's first player to score at least 40 points. On a team where Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway were perennial postseason threats years before, it was Wade who would be the one to torch a team for over 40 points. During Miami's dominant first eight games of the 2005 postseason, Wade stretched the Heat's winning streak to eight after a huge game against the Washington Wizards.

    Supported by Damon Jones and his six three-pointers, Wade and the Heat were able to complete their second sweep of that year's postseason. It might be difficult to remember that this was only Wade's 21st playoff game of his career and only the fourth playoff series of his career, but with the way he put the team on his back it became hard to notice that Wade was still only 24 years old and attempting to lead a team to an NBA title.

4. Shaquille O'Neal: Game 6 vs the Chicago Bulls

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    CHICAGO - MAY 4: Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Miami Heat  puts the ball up against Michael Sweetney #50 of the Chicago Bulls in game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2006 NBA Playoffs on May 4, 2006 at the United Center in Chicago, Il
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When: May 4, 2006

    Circumstances: With a win, the Miami Heat escape out of the first round and avoid a potential Game 7 against an upset-minded Chicago Bulls team.

    Stat line: 30 points (13-24), 20 rebounds, 5 assists, and two blocks.

    Final result: Miami 113, Chicago 96

    The Chicago Bulls weren't your typical seventh seed. With defensive stopper Kirk Hinrich and sharp shooter Ben Gordon, the Bulls weren't the type of team that was going to lay down for the powerful Miami Heat. They had taken both games at their house and had the chance to send it to a possible game seven since game six was back at home. However, with Shaquille O'Neal in classic Laker-mode, it made the Heat impossible to stop.

    With a dominant performance, the Heat were able to overcome three Bulls who scored over 20 points. It also helped the Heat that Wade was there to score 23 points and James Posey to drop 18 off the bench as well, but this was Shaq's night. He gave the Heat a substantial victory over a tough Chicago Bulls team.

3. Dwyane Wade: Game 4 vs the Boston Celtics

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    When: April 25, 2010

    Circumstances: With a win, the Miami Heat avoid a sweep.

    Stat line: 46 points (16-24) (5-7 from deep), five rebounds, five assists and two steals.

    Final result: Miami 101, Boston 92

    The past two offseasons haven't been the best for the average Miami Heat fan, but the ride that Dwyane Wade has taken us on has been enough to keep us at bay until the team does win a playoff series. Even though the Celtics dominated the series and won in five games, Wade still had one of the best series of his career by averaging 35 points per game on 55 percent shooting. In case you didn't know, Wade is not a center, and 55 percent shooting is not normal for a guard.

    Wade's Game 4 performance was by far one of the best individual performances of his postseason career and was also the highest scoring game by a player in that year's postseason. Wade dominated the game from start to finish and even began hitting from deep, a region on the court that Wade usually ventures away from. However, with his shot being more on than it ever has before, Wade looked like he could have been making those three-pointers from half court.

2. Dwyane Wade: NBA Finals Game 5 vs the Dallas Mavericks

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    When: June 18, 2006

    Circumstances: With a win, the Dallas Mavericks take a commanding 3-1 lead with only one game in Miami and two more games left in Dallas.

    Stat line: 43 points (11-28) (0-2 from deep), four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

    Final result: Miami 101, Dallas 100 (OT)

    Does anyone else find it ironic when the Dallas Mavericks fan base blames the officiating for their series loss? Sure, Dwyane Wade took plenty of free throws (24 in Game 4), but they fail to realize that star Mavericks player Dirk Nowitzki missed one of two free throws that could have tied the game and sent it into another overtime. Biased officiating or not, Wade was unfathomable for the entirety of the NBA finals and made his impression felt in the fourth quarter once again.

    With three seconds left and his team down by two, Wade drove it in and banked it off the glass to send the game to overtime. Prior to that shot, Wade had made most of the Heat's last fourth quarter points and was once again the savior for Miami in the clutch. In overtime, he would get fouled with a few seconds remaining and would hit the decisive free throws that would give Miami the Game 4 victory and a tied series.

1. Dwyane Wade: NBA Finals Game 3 vs the Dallas Mavericks

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    When: March 13, 2006

    Circumstances: With a loss, the Miami Heat go down 3-0 in the series and would have to win the next four games to win the series, a feat that has never been done before.

    Stat line: 42 points (14-26), 13 rebounds, two assists and two steals.

    Final result: Miami 98, Dallas 96

    Not since Michael Jordan have we seen an individual dominate a postgame series like Dwyane Wade did in the 2006 NBA Finals. He averaged 35 points per game for the series and saw his "peace de resistance" come in Game 3 where the Heat appeared to be down and out and ready to look forward to an extremely long off season. With his team down by 13 and six minutes remaining, Wade decided to take the game—and the series—into his own hands.

    Drive after drive and jump shot after jump shot fell for Wade as he led his team back from a double-digit fourth quarter deficit. That 13-point lead became an afterthought by the final minute as the Mavericks became the team to play catch up, thanks to Wade's play in that five-minute span. The deciding shot came from Gary Payton who would hit a 20-footer as the shot clock expired, but the final defensive stand would come from Wade who would knock away a possible alley-oop off the inbound for Dallas.

    Chances are that this game will remain on the top spot for years to come.