Dwyane Wade was hoping to extend his legendary career into at least four postseason games.
Instead, Wade’s career will end Wednesday night when the Heat visit the playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets, who can clinch the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Wade, 37, announced his retirement on Sept 16 before training camp began, and this season has been a farewell tour filled with a few magical moments and some postgame jersey exchanges.
Despite the good feelings of celebrating Wade’s storied career, which began as the No. 5 overall draft pick in 2003 and includes NBA championships in 2006, 2012 and 2013, the Heat were unable to do enough to reach the postseason this year.
Miami was formally eliminated Tuesday night as Wade’s career was celebrated in front of home fans for the final time. Wade scored 30 points in his first start of the season in a 122-99 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers, exited to a standing ovation in the final minute and exchanged jerseys with Jimmy Butler.
“I’m still just amazed, even after all these years,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’ve seen him go into his bag of tricks so many times and just compartmentalize. But I’m truly amazed that he was able to perform like that tonight.”
Wade’s final moments in front of the home fans occurred after the Detroit Pistons (40-41) stormed back from a 22-point deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies and eliminate the Heat (39-42).
Miami will miss the postseason for the third time in five seasons since LeBron James returned to Cleveland in 2014.
The Heat were one game over .500 three times but only reached the .500 mark once since Jan. 27 and were done in by losing four straight before Tuesday.
Brooklyn (41-40) will face either third-seeded Philadelphia or second-seeded Toronto in the first round of the playoffs. The Nets are even with Orlando but own the head-the-head tiebreaker and would finish sixth with a win or if the Magic lose Wednesday at Charlotte.
The Nets are in this position because of what unfolded in a challenging road back-to-back set. After getting a five-point win at Milwaukee on Saturday, Brooklyn led most of the way and celebrated clinching a playoff berth with a 108-96 victory at Indiana on Sunday.
“To be honest, it is a big moment for us and a big moment for the organization, from where we’ve come from in the last couple of years, the improvement that we’ve had individually and collectively,” Nets guard Joe Harris said at practice Tuesday. “Just to clinch a playoff spot, it’s a big moment for the organization for sure, and we’re all very happy. But at the same time, we still have Miami left to finish out the year the right way, and we still want to make some noise in the playoffs and make it competitive.”
By clinching Sunday, the Nets are in a position to rest players, and two may be out. DeMarre Carroll will sit out due to a sprained right wrist while Harris — who leads the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage — is questionable because of a sore right foot.
—Field Level Media