NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Dwyane Wade fondly remembers his dominant first game in New Orleans as an emerging college star with Marquette. He won’t forget what was likely his final performance as a pro in the Big Easy, either.
Wade walked off the court to chants of “D-Wade! D-Wade!” from fans converging on the tunnel to the visitors’ locker room after his 19 points — highlighted by tough shots over Anthony Davis at the end of each half — helped the Miami Heat beat the Pelicans 102-96 on Sunday night.
Wade, who turns 37 in January and plans to retire after this season, said the efforts of fans around the country to see him play one last time is “definitely not lost on me.”
So when a sore back sidelined him for Miami’s previous game at Memphis, he was determined to do what he could to loosen up in time to give it a go in New Orleans.
“I definitely understand the sacrifices people make to be at our games,” Wade said. “I just wanted to make sure tonight I was able to get out there. And then I started feeling pretty good as it went on, got a couple shots to fall and the rest is history.”
Wade received an enthusiastic ovation when he first checked in and then made his first three 3-point attempts, the last of which he banked in with Davis guarding him closely in the final seconds of the first half. Wade stopped short of saying he meant to use the glass, but recalled thinking that was the only chance the shot had to fall when he released the ball over Davis’ long arms.
“I decided to ask God to put it in for me — just prayed on it,” Wade said with a laugh.
The Pelicans were as close as 96-90 after Davis’ 3 with 2:32 to go. But Miami, which led nearly the entire game — and by as much as 17 — squashed any hope of a late comeback with Wade’s driving floater over Davis to make it 100-92 with 51 seconds left.
Wary of the pressure Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday was putting on Heat ball handlers, Wade said he acted decisively to explode past Holiday toward the hoop.
“And then when I got down there I saw the big fella coming, so the only chance I had to get the shot off, I had to throw it high, kind of like the 3, but just in the paint,” Wade said. “It was kind of the icing on the cake.”
Josh Richardson scored 22 points for Miami, which closed out a six-game road swing with its fourth victory on the trip.
Hassan Whiteside had 17 points and 12 rebounds in his matchup with Davis.
Davis had 27 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and three steals, but curiously did not take his first shot of the second half until hitting a 3-pointer with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter.
“Every time he got the ball they were running two guys at him. Once again, A.D. is not going to force shots,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “He did what he was supposed to do and he had seven assists — probably could have easily had double figures. We did not make some (open) shots.”
Both teams shot worse than 42 percent and Miami missed 25 3s, but the difference in the game was Miami’s rebounding. The Heat outrebounded the Pelicans 57-38, pulling down 22 offensive rebounds and converting them into 25 second-chance points
Tyler Johnson added 15 points off the bench for Miami, whose reserves outscored New Orleans’ bench 58-20.
Julius Randle had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, but limped to the locker room with 6:49 to go after rolling his right ankle during a lost scrap for a rebound. Holiday had 22 points.
Heat: Reserve wing player Derrick Jones Jr. scored 11 points in 21 minutes. … Guard Goran Dragic sat out for the fourth time in five games with right knee soreness. … Starting forward Justise Winslow left the game in the first half with right ankle soreness and did not return.
Pelicans: Forward Nikola Mirotic missed his second straight game with a right ankle injury. … Forward Darius Miller missed eight of nine shots, including seven of eight from 3-point range, where he normally hits 38 percent.
Wade said Marquette’s visit to Tulane in January 2003 was the first time he was aware of NBA scouts in attendance for one of his games. He scored 35 points in an 85-73 win. He returned to New Orleans that season for the Final Four in the Superdome. Then as an NBA rookie, his first playoff series was against New Orleans, which was then in the Eastern Conference, and Miami won that series.
“I’ve had a lot of great moments here,” Wade said. “I was glad I was able to get out there today and kind of finish it off the last time being here.”
Heat: Host Houston on Thursday night.
Pelicans: Visit Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
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