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Wade starts for Heat against Pistons
Updated: 2005-06-07 09:34

Healthy or not, Dwyane Wade joined the Miami Heat for the biggest game of their season. Wade, who's battling a strained right rib muscle, was in Miami's starting lineup Monday night for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Detroit Pistons. He missed Miami's 91-66 Game 6 loss because of the injury.

"He's ready to go," said Damon Jones, Wade's backcourt mate.

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (R) tries to navigate past Detroit Pistons' Tayshaun Prince during the first quarter of Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals in Miami June 6, 2005. [Reuters]

Wade took part in the team's Monday morning shootaround and received treatment throughout the day, trying to do whatever possible to be ready for Game 7. He did not speak to reporters before the game.

Specifics of what type of treatment Wade received were not released by the Heat, and coach Stan Van Gundy refused to reveal what methods were employed to get his star guard ready for the series finale.

"I'm not going to comment on any treatment he may or may not have gotten," Van Gundy said.

Wade entered the court area to raucous cheers with about nine minutes remaining in the warm-up period, or about five minutes after his teammates took the floor. Another big cheer erupted when his face was shown on the jumbotron screens during the national anthem.

Dealing with injuries is commonplace for Miami, which has all five starters battling some sort of painful malady. Shaquille O'Neal has a sore thigh, Damon Jones a sore heel, Eddie Jones an ankle problem and stitches over one eye, and Udonis Haslem is playing with a badly dislocated finger on his left hand.

"It's Game 7. The heck with all of that," Van Gundy said. "You're out there, you've got to play and you've got to play well. There's no excuses that anybody cares about at this point, nor should they care about. It's two teams playing for a chance to go to the NBA Finals. That's all that matters."

Wade missed five regular season games, four because of injury, and Miami went 3-2 in those. He's been the Heat's leading scorer this postseason, with averages of 28 points, 6.8 assists and 6.1 rebounds.

"If we lose, we go home. He's going to give it everything he's got," Haslem said.

Detroit is drawing upon experience from before Game 1 — when there was some speculation that O'Neal wouldn't be able to play because of the bruised right thigh that has dogged him for nearly two months. O'Neal played, and the Pistons won anyway, taking the opener 90-81.

Pistons guard Richard Hamilton said his team will try to attack Wade and test him throughout the game.

"You've got to make him work on both ends of the floor," Hamilton said. "If he handles the ball, you've got to pressure him. If he's guarding whoever, you've got to see how healthy he is."

And while the Pistons would clearly glean an advantage with Wade not on the floor, coach Larry Brown said he didn't want the series decided with either team being at anything less than its best.

"He's been such a big part of their team," Brown said. "He's had such a phenomenal year and you don't want to see anybody short-handed in meaningful games like this."

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