NEW YORK — Dwyane Wade felt something special about Madison Square Garden since first stepping on its floor during his sophomore season in college.
The 13-time All-Star bid farewell to the arena Saturday night by planting a kiss on the New York Knicks logo at center court.
Dion Waiters scored 28 points, Wade added 16 and the Miami Heat beat the Knicks 100-92.
“You love playing here. You hear about it,” said Wade, who stuck around after the final buzzer to take in the love from the crowd that serenade him with chants of ‘D-Wade! D-Wade!’ throughout the night.
“When I played in college, I got the opportunity to play here, the Coaches vs Cancer Classic. It was just immediately, that feel, and the feel was there. Getting an opportunity to play (here) in the NBA has been special.”
Wade had 17 points in leading Marquette past Villanova in that game on Nov. 15, 2002.
Wade had back-to-back baskets in Miami’s 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter after the game was tied through three. He shot 6 for 16 and added seven rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra thought of the old Heat-Knicks rivalry and found the pro-Miami crowd like something of the Twilight Zone.
“To hear all the cheers and all the ‘Let’s Go Heat,’ it all feels strange but that is the impact of a Hall of Fame player and I am glad he is on our side,” Spoelstra said.
Hassan Whiteside finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Heat, while Kelly Olynyk chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds. Goran Dragic had 10 points and 10 assists.
The Heat have won six of their last eight games and hold a half-game lead over Orlando for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference.
Emmanuel Mudiay scored 24 points for the Knicks, who have lost six straight and 14 of 15.
The Knicks led 61-55 at the half but managed to score just 31 points over the last two quarters, shooting just 12 for 36 from the field, including 5 for 21 in the last period.
New York, which has lost eight straight games at home, seemed like it was going to spoil Wade’s last visit to one of his favorite arenas.
But he followed Whiteside’s basket with two of his own before Whiteside made two free throws to make it 87-79 with 9:29 to go.
The three-time NBA champion received a nice hand from the Garden crowd when he walked to the scorer’s table for the first time midway through the first quarter. Wade was then greeted with a standing ovation when he checked into the game with 4:37 left in the period.
“As a player, this is your last time and just want to enjoy it,” Wade added. “I know the fans stayed around and that was so cool, man, to be able to have that. You expect it at home maybe your last time but on the road you don’t expect that.”
New York honored Wade’s 15-year career with a video tribute with 2:47 remaining in the opening period after a Miami timeout.
Wade then drove to the basket for his first points of the night.
“One of the top-5, if not top-3 best shooting guards to ever play this game,” Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. said.
“Super competitor. Even better person. You got to salute everything he’s done and accomplished in this league.”
Heat: Wade averaged 23.6 points in 44 regular season games at Madison Square Garden.
Knicks: Mitchell Robinson started at center and finished with nine points and 14 rebounds. Prior to the game, Knicks coach David Fizdale said he wanted to get a better look at the second-round pick from the 2018 draft over the last two weeks of the regular season.
Wade’s tribute video included a warm message from Fizdale, who won two NBA titles as a Miami assistant coach from 2008-16.
The Knicks coach recalled a game Wade won while both teams on the court couldn’t get anything “right.”
But Wade found a way to put the Heat over Chicago in double overtime.
“He stole the ball at the end of the game and made a running halfcourt shot to end the game. It was literally a bloodbath. I’ll never forget that night,” Fizdale recalled. “We’re battling like crazy. And somehow he figured out how to get us a win.”
Heat: Visit the Boston Celtics on Monday for the first game of a home-and-home series.
Knicks: Conclude their six-game homestand when they host the Chicago Bulls on Monday.