Meanwhile, James pushed through for 31 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in yet another remarkable performance that the Spurs were able to absorb without ever really being threatened by contributions from any of his teammates.
James entered Game 5 averaging nearly 28 points and shooting 60 percent from the field and 61 percent from 3-point range. He got to his game but didn't get help along the way from Wade or Chris Bosh, who had 18 points and 9 rebounds in Game 1 but was not much of a factor over the final three games of the series.
"It's hard to say anything," James said when asked how he dealt with his teammates after being overwhelmed by the Spurs. "Everyone is going through their own emotions right now. Everyone deals with it differently. I keep my head high. I understand the position I've been able to put myself and this team in since I got here, so my head stays high. And I'm going to stay positive and use this as another opportunity to get better next year. But everyone is different."
That includes Wade, who enters an offseason of uncertainty.
Just before the start of the Finals, Wade considered his season on the verge of being a major success. After missing 28 games during the regular season, with most absences part of a maintenance plan to rest and restore his knees, Wade got better and stronger in each of the first three rounds of the playoffs.
He indicated he was as healthy as he'd been in at least two years and appeared to be destined for an offseason without surgery or a major procedure for the first time since the summer of 2011.
Then these Finals happened.
"It wasn't just Dwyane," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of what went wrong. "It was pretty much everybody except for LeBron, and we just weren't able to get into our normal rhythm. You'll have to ask (Wade). He's not going to make an excuse. He wouldn't want me to make an excuse. Nobody at this time of the year feels great. It's about competition and just trying to find a way. And [the Spurs] found a way."
The question now is which way do Wade and the Heat go from here? Might he need more work done this offseason, after his body seemed to have betrayed him in the Finals? Can he be relied upon as a starter, or should the Heat try to transition Wade into the role of a sixth man?
And how will the Heat and Wade balance pride and prudence? What's generally suspected and should be accepted is that Wade's play in the Finals certainly raised more questions than it answered.
Like James and Bosh, Wade could opt out of his contract to become a free agent July 1. As a three-time champion who has been the cornerstone of the Heat franchise since he was drafted fifth overall in 2003, Wade could then seek a four-year contract at the maximum salary of more than $90 million -- a deal that would drastically limit the Heat's ability to potentially restructure the roster around James.
Wade could also opt out and take less money, in conjunction with other players, to potentially create salary-cap space to help retool a roster that needs to trend younger and more athletic. Or, Wade could simply bypass the option and elect to play out a contract that has two years and $41 million left.