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Something about Boston has brought out Wade’s playoff best, and some Heat opponents saw his postseason surge coming as the regular season wound down.

“He’s probably one of the best athletes the world’s got,” Charlotte guard Gerald Henderson said after seeing the Heat for the final time in the regular season. “His change of speed, his balance, all of that stuff, he’s just a great athlete. … Combine all of that athleticism with the way he handles a basketball, it’s really tough to guard him. You just have to lock in and just hope he misses.”

Wade missed his share in Game 2, shooting 8 for 20.

But as he’s done plenty of times in the playoffs _ think 2006, for example _ he compensated by getting to the line plenty of times, going 11 for 13 there on Tuesday night.

The Celtics attempted 40 free throws in the first two games. Wade and James have shot 39, and Bosh has added 13 more.

“The free throw line right now, we’re getting crushed on,” Rivers said.

Boston will be different on Saturday. Rivers said he expects center Shaquille O’Neal, who has missed nearly all of the last three months with leg problems, to be available as a reserve in Game 3. And the Celtics plan to run more for Pierce and Allen, which could tax James and Wade more on the defensive end.

Miami knows Game 3 will be its biggest challenge yet, in a season filled with plenty of tough tests already.

“The series is just starting,” Wade said. “We’ve got to go up there like we would if we were starting on the road, and be like, ‘Let’s go get one right now.’ So our focus is on Game 3 and making sure that we’re even better than we were at home.”


Tim Reynolds can be reached at