Dwyane Wade: Congratulations to clutch Dirk

MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade has no choice but to praise Dirk Nowitzki.

What else could they say about the Finals MVP after Nowitzki consistently dominated crunch time during this series?

Almost five years ago, months after his Miami Heat won a championship at the Mavericks’ expense, Wade ripped Nowitzki. He said the Mavericks lost in those Finals because Nowitzki “wasn’t the leader he’s supposed to be in the closing moments.”

There was no doubt that Dirk was the best player in these Finals when it mattered most. He scored 62 points in the fourth quarters, an average of 10.3 per night. He had 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the clutch -- defined by the final five minutes with the score within five points -- a total that was twice that of Wade and LeBron James combined. He twice drove for last-minute layups, one that won Game 2 and another that sealed the Game 4 victory when Nowitzki played despite a nasty sinus infection.

So what did Wade, who drew Dirk’s ire for mocking his cough earlier this week, think of Nowitzki during the defining moments of these Finals?

“I think he’s played awesome, man,” Wade said. “Obviously Dirk, five years ago, it burned in him. He learned from that experience.

“Even though he was 1-for-12 in the first half, he came out and made big shots for his team. He kept being aggressive, kept shooting.

“So there’s no question he’s been a great individual player, and now that he’s a champion, it goes without saying what it does for his career. So congratulations to him.”