BOSTON -- Heat guard Dwyane Wade insists the knee is fine and that there are no physical limitations affecting his play beyond the normal wear and tear from a long playoff run.
But Wade is trying to shake off something else that has been bothering him: Boston's defense.
"It's not a secret, guys; I'm getting doubled at the top of the key, I'm getting doubled in the paint," Wade said as Miami, up 2-1 after Friday's loss, prepared for Game 4 on Sunday. "We're going to have to find other ways. I'm a patient person. Things will hopefully loosen up."
Wade has challenged his coaching staff and himself with making adjustments that will free up his game and allow him to operate more effectively against the Celtics. If there's been a commonality in each of the first three games of the series, it's that Wade consistently has gotten off to slow starts against Boston.
In Game 3, the Celtics' plan against Wade was their most effective yet: They simply swarmed him with defenders each time he touched the ball and forced him to pass. Wade finished with 18 points on 9-of-20 shooting from the field and had just six points at the half.
By the time he found some operating room against the Celtics in the third quarter, the Heat were already on their way to trailing by as many as 24 points. Wade also didn't attempt a free throw Friday, marking the first time he hasn't done so in a playoff game since his rookie season.
Wade had his best stretch of success when the Heat sped up the tempo on offense and committed to running in transition -- even after made baskets by the Celtics. The less Wade had to go against a set Boston defense, the better he played.
But even Wade had to smile at the irony of yet another struggle in Game 3 of a playoff series. In the Heat's previous series against the Pacers, Wade had the worst playoff game of his career during a Game 3 loss in which he scored only five points.
Before that game, Wade had his troublesome left knee drained of excess fluid and was visibly sluggish. After a few days of rest, Wade responded with a three-game stretch in which he scored 99 points as the Heat finished off Indiana for a 4-2 series win.
Wade said the knee isn't giving him any additional problems this series. He probably wouldn't admit it if it was. Instead, Wade chose to give a nod to Boston's defensive strategy. The Celtics have mixed the coverages on Wade with defenders that have included Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus, Marquis Daniels and even Kevin Garnett.
Boston has been able to gamble and commit two defenders on Wade, in part, because of the absence of Chris Bosh, who remains sidelined with an abdominal strain. Without a third scorer they believe can seriously hurt them, Boston has been able to load up on Wade or James. For Game 3 at least, they decided to target Wade.
The defense hasn't completely stopped Wade, who is shooting 52.1 percent from the field and averaging 21 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in three games. But Boston has effectively slowed him down for long stretches.
"Give Doc [Rivers] and them credit for coming up with the scheme," Wade said. "Now, we have to do our jobs in making adjustments."