MIAMI • A week after losing to the Phoenix Suns, it was almost another Monday nightmare for the Miami Heat until Dwyane Wade stepped up his play in a battle of the aged with Vince Carter.
Sparking his team with seven consecutive fourth-quarter points, Wade led the Heat to a 114-113 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory over the Atlanta Hawks at the American Airlines Arena.
"He's playing his best basketball of the season now," his coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's textbook Hall-of-Fame poise."
The 37-year-old closed with 23 points, including 14 in the fourth quarter, just about all of them needed with Carter, 42, scoring 21 for the Hawks.
"Between Dwyane and Vince Carter, this was circa 2005 at the end," Spoelstra added.
Miami have been manhandled against Atlanta this season, going 0-3, but Wade's clutch display and a pep talk from Spoelstra, urging them to "put the foot on the gas pedal", prevented the clean sweep.
After his team's third win in the last four games, he told reporters: "Our team is gaining confidence.
"What we talked about today is 'let's go'. Either we have a response for that - we're tired of getting blown off by this team - or we don't."
While Wade is retiring at the end of the season, his farewell tour may well extend into the play-offs, with the Heat now in a three-way tie for the eighth and final play-off spot in the East alongside the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Hornets.
And not only did the 13-time All-Star put on another performance to add to his career highlight reel, he overtook NBA great Michael Jordan after making his 1,052nd rejection to become the guard with the most blocks in league history.
Wade also showed why his peers hold him in great esteem, not just for his on-court exploits, but also because of his magnanimity. Post-game, he sought out Hawks rookie Kevin Huerter before requesting to swop jerseys with the guard.
Explaining his decision, Wade said: "Earlier in the year, a good friend told me about (Huerter). When he was younger, he used to wear my shoes and the No. 3, because of me, he looked up to me.
Dwyane Wade is the guard with the most blocks (1,052) in NBA history.
"So I knew I was going to surprise him the last time I played them, but I really like his game. Since pre-season, when we played him all the way up to now, he's gotten so much better. So from one No. 3 to another, I thought I'd switch jerseys with him."
While Carter ended up on the losing team, the eight-time All-Star also reached his own milestone after surpassing Indiana Pacers great Reggie Miller to climb into 20th place in the all-time scoring list (25,280). DPA