Washington 114, Miami 97, Game 37 of 82 (Wizards 18-19)
In one of the more impressive efforts of the season, Washington raced out to a big lead over the defending champion Miami Heat Wednesday night. The visitors didn’t crack though, and marched back into contention in the middle periods. John Wall steadied the Wizards’ attack in the fourth quarter, and the home fans went home happy as Washington beat the defending league champion Heat.
Miami (27-11) came into the game having lost their last two games, but they hadn’t played since 10 January (a double-overtime loss at Brooklyn). The Heat had reinforcements returning to the lineup, as Udonis Haslem (did not play – coach’s decision) and Dywane Wade (rest) didn’t play Friday night. Wednesday’s match-up was also the season debut of center Greg Oden. Earlier Wednesday, Miami was involved in a three-team trade with Golden State and Boston. Backup center Joel Anthony was sent from Miami to Boston, while the Heat were slated to receive guard Toney Douglas from Golden State. Douglas wasn’t available Wednesday night, however.
Washington jumped out to a 43-18 lead at the end of the first quarter. It may have been the best period of basketball the Wizards have played all season. It was the first time in Heat history that they trailed by 25 at the end of 12 minutes. Washington shot 77.3% from the floor in the period, and had 16 fast break points to none for the visitors. John Wall scored 11 points and dished 4 assists in the quarter. Chris Bosh scored six for Miami, who shot 40.9% in the period. Those watching might have assumed that the Heat weren’t going to panic. They didn’t.
The Heat started chipping away at the deficit in the second quarter. Washington initially kept up the torrid pace. Two Nene free throws at the 4:23 mark gave the Wizards their largest lead, 64-30. The fans were fired up, the team was sharing the basketball. But, Miami kept their focus, and their execution on both ends improved gradually. LeBron James stared asserting himself offensively, scoring nine points towards the end of the half. James finished with half with 13, and Bosh added 11. Washington had four players in double figures at halftime: Nene (13) Bradley Beal (12), Trevor Booker (12) and John Wall (11). Washington led Miami 69-48 at the half.
The third quarter was the place where it got dicey for Washington and its fans. Miami won the quarter 29-17, as the Wizards had nine turnovers and a flurry of missed shots in the quarter. The Wizards’ share-the-wealth offense from the first quarter morphed into forced moves into the teeth of the Miami defense. Bosh scored ten in the quarter and James added another seven. Trevor Ariza’s seven points in the quarter helped keep Washington ahead despite Miami’s dogged pursuit. The third quarter ended with the Wizards leading 86-77. The mood in Verizon Center suddenly became quite somber.
To the Wizards’ credit, they started the fourth quarter with better purpose. Beal hit a jumper while fouled & converted the resultant free throw eighteen seconds into the period. Wall followed with a three-pointer the next time Washington got the ball. Bosh hit a jumper off a James assist to cut the lead to 92-83, 9:19 remaining. At that point, Wall went to work. He tallied 11 points and two assists down the stretch to calm his team & the home fans. At the end of this
season, some may look back at this game as the night where Wall took that next step up towards the upper echelon of players in the NBA.
For the game, Washington shot 54.7% from the field, and accumulated 41 rebounds, 30 assists on 41 baskets, 7 steals, 12 turnovers and 7 blocked shots. Seven Wizards scored in double figures, led by Wall’s 25 points and 9 assists. Nene had 19 points, and he too had 9 assists. Bradley Beal added 19 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists in one of his more complete games of the season. Trevor Booker scored 13, and had a team-high 11 rebounds.
Miami shot 44% from the floor, and totaled 35 rebounds, 22 assists on 37 baskets, 6 steals, 12 turnovers and 1 blocked shot. Bosh scored 26 with 7 rebounds for the Heat. James had 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Guard Norris Cole added 15 and 7 assists. Wade was held to 8 points on 4-for-11 from the field.
The Wizards’ home stand continues Friday night when Chicago visits. The next back-to-back closes with Detroit (Saturday, 18 January). Eastern Conference rivals Philadelphia (Monday, 20 January) and Boston (Wednesday, 22 January) follow. Washington just won at Chicago last Monday night – can the Wizards get back to the grind after perhaps the biggest victory of the season?
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