Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/11/12
MIAMI -- Dwyane Wade may claim to not know what Charles Barkley is saying but he sure heard what Josh Smith uttered. After drilling a jumper over the Atlanta Hawks forward in the fourth quarter Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, the Miami Heat guard backpedaled down the court while nodding. "He was talking to me," Wade said after his Heat had polished off the Hawks 101-92 in a battle for first place it the Southeast Divison. "That was cool. It was all good. He didn't think I was going to make it. So I had to let him now." Wade seems determined these days to provide reminders that his best days are not behind him, contrary to what a certain man with avoirdupois issues has been spouting on the air. Barkley regularly has being using his platform as a TNT analyst to rip a guy he used to star alongside in cell-phone commercials. "I'm not the all-time leading scorer around here for nothing," Wade, in his 10th Heat season, let it be known after shooting 11-of-13 and scoring 26 points. Wade claimed after Monday's game he "really didn't listen to the noise" that is mainly coming from Barkley. But Wade's teammates disagree, saying Wade, 30, knows quite well about Barkley's claims that his game is falling off rapidly. "It means Charles Barkley, you shut up," Heat forward LeBron James said about what Wade showed Monday. But when James thought more about it, he doesn't want Barkley to close his mouth. It sure seems to be motivating Wade. Barkley was critical of Wade during a Nov. 29 TNT broadcast and Wade two days later scored a season-high 34 points against Brooklyn. After Barkley continued to rip Wade last Thursday, Wade has scored 26 points in each of the past two games while shooting 20-of-25. "The man is shooting 80 percent the last couple of games," James said. "Come on. That's crazy. Seriously He's unbelievable. I do (want Barkley to keep criticizing Wade). I love it. When someone's not saying stuff about me, I'm glad that somebody finally got off me for a change." James has been hearing only nice things this season and he's had no problems with motivation. His 27 points Monday gave him a Heat record of scoring 20 points in 24 straight Heat regular-season games. When both playoff and regular-season games are considered, James has a streak of 40 in a row. James shot 10-of-16 against the Hawks. He was asked what chance foes might have when James and Wade shoot a combined 21-of-29. "We're not going to lose," James said. "We won't get beat when we shoot efficiently like that." If the defending champions, who also got a workmanlike 14 points and 10 rebounds from third star Chris Bosh, continue to have outings like they did Monday, count on David Stern handing them next June the last championship trophy he will present as NBA commissioner. The Heat (14-5) shot 58.2 percent and held the Hawks (12-6) to 42.7 percent marksmanship in perhaps their best win of the season. Judging from those sitting courtside, there sure was a big-game feel. Among those on hand were Jay-Z, Beyonce, Lil Wayne and Floyd Mayweather Jr. The Hawks came in having won nine of 10 and a win would have vaulted them past the Heat and into first place in the Southeast Division. Miami made sure that didn't happen by outscoring Atlanta 45-38 in the second half to extend a 56-54 advantage. "They are the world champions that are in our division," Smith said of figuring the Heat would be on their game. There are never any concerns these days about James putting on a show. He threw down a dunk in the fourth quarter after Norris Cole tossed an alley-oop pass to the top of the backboard that James joked Cole "actually took it literally when I just told him throw it anywhere." When Miami is vulnerable, it's often because Wade has a shaky night. He acknowledges there are going to be some uneven times as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery last July. "It's going to be ebb and flow early in the season," said Wade, who was further excited after the game about his fantasy football quarterback, Tom Brady, having a big game in a New England win over Houston. "Just try to get better and try to get strong on my own." Webb anticipates he won't be at full strength until around the All-Star break. But Wade, who mixed his game up with jumpers and inside shots, sure looked like his old self Monday. With that in mind, Heat players welcome Barkley to keep ripping Wade. "He's at his best when people question him," Heat forward Shane Battier said of Wade, whose scoring average of 20.2 is still nearly five points below his career average and his lowest since his rookie season of 2003-04. "He has that edge. So that's good. I like it when people doubt him." As Smith learned, that includes trash-talking foes. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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