MIAMI (Reuters) - He is playing on basketball's greatest stage in front of adoring crowds and a global TV audience, but for Dwyane Wade there is little joy to be found at this late stage of a grueling season.
The 31-year-old Miami Heat shooting guard knows all too well the rigors of playoff basketball as he is competing in his third consecutive National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals.
"Playoffs ain't fun, man. I'm sorry to bust anyone on the outside's bubble. As a player in the playoffs, you have no joy until it's over and you won," Wade, a two-time NBA champion whose Heat trail the best-of-seven Finals 1-0, said on Friday.
"If you don't win, you have no joy for a while. So for us it's the grind every day as a team of trying to win the series, trying to win four games in the series."
After cruising through the first two rounds of the NBA's playoffs, the Heat were pushed to a decisive seventh game by the Indiana Pacers in an intense series that ended on Monday.
That left Wade and his teammates two full days of rest before opening the championship round on Thursday, a game the visiting San Antonio Spurs would win 92-88.
The defending champion Heat will host the Spurs again on Sunday, a game they can ill-afford to lose since the next three games of the series are scheduled for San Antonio.
In the aftermath of Thursday's loss, Wade cited fatigue as being a factor in their poor fourth quarter performance but he was wary of those words, reasonable though they were, being seen as an excuse.
"By no means, no stretch do I want anybody to think that's a crutch, that we were tired," said Wade. "So what? We have to play. I said we looked like a team that came out of a seven‑game series in the fourth quarter. We died down a little bit physically and mentally by making mistakes.
"So you have to fight through all that. It's the Finals. There's no other series after this. There's no tomorrow after this, from the standpoint of basketball."
Miami dropped the first game of the 2012 NBA Finals versus the Oklahoma City Thunder but went on to win the title in five games. They followed that same pattern in the second round of this year against the Chicago Bulls and that ability to rally back seems to give Wade some confidence.
"We'll figure it out. We're a team that always makes the adjustment," said Wade. "I'm not saying it's guaranteed we're going to make the adjustment that it is going to win us the game. But I feel we'll play better, especially when we're in those moments.
"That's kind of what we pride ourselves on. We'll be better in the fourth quarter in Game Two. If we're not, then we're putting ourselves in a big hole. So I believe we will."
Editing by Frank Pingue