MIAMI -- There were some who actually suggested when Dwyane Wade was sidelined that the Miami Heat are better without him.
Want to know what Wade has to say about that?
"Ridiculous," he said.
He's right. And anybody who disagrees might just get dunked on.
After missing six games due to a sprained right ankle, the guard came back with a vengeance Friday night. He scored 28 points in 33 minutes as the Heat defeated the New York Knicks 99-89 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
"This is a very good team with or without me. But without me, I doubt that," Wade said of the Heat being better when the Big Three is reduced to a Big Two of LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
Such suggestions surfaced when the Heat went 5-1 during the most recent stretch without him, making them 8-1 this season in games he's missed. But Wade hasn't been healthy all season, having also battled foot and calf problems.
It was the real Wade on display against the Knicks. He soared for six dunks while driving relentlessly to the basket all night.
"To be out six games and look like, basically, you didn't miss a beat, his speed and stamina were the two things that were like, 'Wow,"' James said.
James scored a game-high 31 points while throwing down five dunks himself, but this night belonged to Wade.
Wade had gotten hurt Jan. 13 at Denver. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra revealed Friday the plan then pretty much became to give him two full weeks of rest.
"We had a collective franchise decision on this," Spoelstra said. "We were going to make sure that we would get his body right. In normal years, he probably would have tried to play in the (Jan. 19) Laker game. We held him out another week just to make sure he felt right."
Sitting out that long wasn't always easy for Wade, who spent a lot of time watching television when he wasn't working hard to get back in shape. He then saw many of the pundits who suggested the Heat might be better without him.
Wade knows he hadn't been himself all season, so the ankle injury was perhaps a blessing in disguise since it allowed his entire body to heal.
"I had to be smart, think of longevity and what's best for the team," said Wade, who shot 11 of 19 after entering the game averaging 19.6 points, on pace to be his lowest since his rookie season of 2003-04. "It took a real painful ankle injury to let me sit out, not only work on my game, work on my body, get healthy, lose a couple of pounds. I had to make sure that I came back better than I was before."
He was. And perhaps now Olympic teammate Carmelo Anthony will take notice.
The Knicks forward, banged up with a sprained ankle along with wrist and thumb injuries, sat out Friday and will also skip Saturday's game at Houston in an attempt to get him healthy. With Anthony out, New York went on a three-point barrage rarely seen in the NBA.
The Knicks shot 18 of 43 behind the arc to become just the fourth team since 1996-97 to attempt more three-pointers in a game than two-pointers (they had 41 of those). Until they slowed down late, New York had a chance to break NBA records for most three-pointers made (23) and attempted (49) in a game.
"We tried to exploit what they gave us," said Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, whose main marksman was guard Bill Walker, who shot 7 of 10 on threes for all of his 21 points in a game New York led by as many as four points in the third quarter. I thought we did that for a long time. We just couldn't sustain it."
With the Knicks firing away at will and the Heat throwing down 11 dunks, it looked at times like an ABA game. All that was missing were the 1971-72 Miami Floridians throwback uniforms the Heat actually did wear last weekend.
In the first half, James had five dunks and Wade had three. When Wade threw one down midway through the first quarter, Spoelstra knew his star guard was all the way back.
"The fastbreak dunk, when he wrapped it around," Spoelstra said. "We hadn't seen that this year during the regular season. Maybe the first couple of days of training camp. It's been that long. So, he feels ready. His body is much better."
Now that Wade is back, there are still some issues on the Heat. Bosh, after averaging 26.7 points in the most recent six games Wade had missed, shot just 4 of 18 Friday for 13 points.
But it's just one game, and the forward is determined to continue looking for his shot when playing alongside Wade and James.
"I'm going to shoot, make or miss," said Bosh, who said until recently he had been too hesitant at times looking for shots.
James also must continue to learn to mesh with Wade, with both wing players having similar traits, including wanting to dominate the ball. It wasn't a problem Friday, with James shooting 11 of 18.
"Dwyane told me to just continue to play my game once I return," James said of Wade wanting him to remain aggressive. "I'm going to do that. Last year definitely was a learning experience trying to play alongside him."
Last year, the Heat were pretty good, making it to Game 6 of the NBA Finals. This year, they're even better.
But are the Heat better without Wade?
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson