Dwyane Wade
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Dwyane Wade terrorized the New York Knicks for the final time in MSG and the crowd gave the All-Star a proper send off.

Danny Small

The New York Knicks haven’t had an intimidating homecourt advantage in quite some time. It’s not because the Madison Square Garden crowd doesn’t show up. Rather, the crowd’s energy often feeds into the opposing team. On Saturday night, the crowd showered Dwyane Wade with love.

Of course, this wasn’t an ordinary night at MSG. This was Wade, a sure-fire Hall of Famer, playing in his final game in the NBA’s most storied arena. All around the league, Wade has been drawing throngs of adoring fans, but the Garden always brings a little extra.

The night started with a touching video tribute from the Knicks and Wade’s former coach, David Fizdale.

“As a competitor, you know, he was second to none,” Fizdale said. “It didn’t matter who we were playing against, he always wanted to go up against the best. It didn’t matter. He loved the challenge of going after the throne and I didn’t want to go into the trench with anybody else but him.”

That’s awfully high praise from Fizdale, but there are few players that could ever match Wade’s competitive drive. Furthermore, Fiz understands better than anyone what kind of person Wade is and he couldn’t say enough about his former player.

“I’ve learned more from him than he has from me, for sure,” Fizdale told reporters in his postgame press conference. “He’s one of those guys that when he says he’s your friend, he’s gonna be there for you. He’s been there for me every step of the way. All of the tributes are well deserved. He is one of the greatest guards that has ever played this game.”

Although he wasn’t vintage Wade on Saturday, his productive game off the bench helped the Miami Heat secure a crucial victory in MSG. The All-Star shooting guard scored 16 points while grabbing seven boards and dishing out three assists. The win pushes Miami’s record to an even .500 at 38-38 as they maintain a slim half-game lead over the ninth-place Orlando Magic.

New York Knicks

Every game is crucial at this point in the season. Wade and the Heat didn’t let the emotion of the moment impede their overall goal of making the playoffs. Miami’s leader spoke about the team’s focus on making the playoffs with Rebecca Haarlow of MSG Networks after the game.

“I love playing at that time,” Wade said. “Obviously, our organization plays for the playoffs. We don’t play for ping pong balls in the sense that even when the year looks down we still try to fight to see if we can get in there.”

The Heat are currently juggling two different subplots this season. On the one hand, the playoffs are an obvious organizational goal. On the flip side, “One Last Dance” has taken on a life of its own and Wade’s farewell tour is overshadowing the playoff run to a certain extent.

That’s not to say that Wade is losing focus or worrying about himself over the team. That couldn’t be further from the truth. But his final moments in the Garden will be remembered long after the world forgets about Miami’s battle with the Magic for the right to lose to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

“It’s sad that I’m not going to play here no more,” Wade said. “This is definitely one of my favorite places to perform. You gotta perform when you’re here.”

Wade rarely disappointed when he took the floor in Madison Square Garden and Saturday night was no different. Even after the final whistle blew, the New York crowd wasn’t done with Wade. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, while Wade was signing autographs for fans, an MSG railing broke.

It didn’t stop there. Wade’s fans waited for him to emerge from the bowels of the Garden one final time.

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