The Atlanta Hawks are lacking a go-to player, someone they can look to for a big basket when the game's on the line. There aren't many players better at filling that role than Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade.Coming off another clutch performance, Wade looks to help the Heat continue their home dominance of the struggling Hawks when the teams meet Friday night.
After last season's 15-67 debacle, Miami (12-9) is off to a strong start thanks largely to Wade. He's averaging 34.8 points during a four-game winning streak, the Heat's longest since a nine-game run from Feb. 28-March 16, 2007.
Wade scored 41 points, 10 in the final 8 1/2 minutes, to lead the Miami back from a seven-point deficit in a 100-96 win over Charlotte on Monday night. It was Wade's seventh game of at least 35 points this season - most in the league.
Healthy again after being limited to 51 games in 2007-08, Wade is averaging a league-best 29.5 points, along with 7.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds in 21 games.
Only two players in NBA history - Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan - finished a season with the sort of scoring, rebounding and assist numbers Wade has averaged so far. Besides Robertson - who did it six times - and Jordan, no other player has averaged Wade's current numbers in all three categories.
"Hopefully I can do better," Wade said. "For right now, it's always great to be in the conversation with anybody the likes of Michael Jordan and Oscar ... but they did do it for a whole season. Mine is only 20-some games in. I've got 60-some more to go."
The fourth quarter is when Wade really shines, as he's scoring 8.4 points per game in the period - more than in any other quarter.
"He's having an unbelievable year," Heat forward Shawn Marion said. "He's scoring the ball tremendously, he's doing a lot on defense, a lot on offense. When you talk about players coming out of the gate right now, he's definitely at the top of my list."
Wade missed Miami's last meeting with Atlanta (12-9) on April 16, but the Heat won 113-99 for their 21st win in their last 23 home games versus the Hawks.
Atlanta doesn't appear to be in any shape to end its problems at Miami. The Hawks are in desperate need of a player like Wade who can take over down the stretch, having stumbled through their Texas trip 0-3 despite having a chance to win each contest.
Against Dallas on Saturday, Joe Johnson missed what would have been the tying 3-pointer with 8 seconds left in a 100-98 loss. Three days later, the Hawks were outscored 32-22 in the fourth quarter of a 92-84 defeat to Houston.
In its latest defeat, Atlanta couldn't stop San Antonio's Manu Ginobili, who scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth as the Hawks fell 95-89 on Wednesday night. Ginobili hit two free throws with 3:27 remaining after Atlanta's Mike Bibby and Al Horford were called for technical fouls for arguing a foul call when the Hawks had cut the Spurs' lead to three points.
Hawks forward Josh Smith, who's struggled after a 12-game layoff due to a sprained ankle, didn't even get a chance to play down the stretch versus San Antonio. He's averaging 12.0 points while shooting 38.9 percent from the field in five games since returning.
After starting the season 6-0, Atlanta is in danger of losing four straight for the second time.
The Hawks went 3-1 against the Heat last season.