One night after losing in about as respectable a way as possible to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Washington Wizards travel to Miami for a showdown with the defending champion Miami Heat. Miami is well-rested, coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Golden State Warriors, and lost their last game to Washington in a very public fashion, so the Wizards are going to get their best tonight.
Where and When? The game's at 7:30 p.m. and will be played in Miami.
Why Should I Care? They're the Miami Heat. Better yet, the Wizards have had their number lately, having won their last three games in a row against Miami.
Who's Out? Dexter Pittman is out with a leg injury, while the rest of the Heat roster is largely healthy and expected to play. Washington will be without A.J. Price, Trevor Booker, John Wall and Trevor Ariza.
What Happened the Last Time They Met? Miami didn't try too hard for most of the game, Washington made some shots they normally wouldn't, Miami missed some that they'd normally make and Washington eked out their second victory of the season.
What Are They Good At? Driving, dishing and knocking down threes. Miami's offense consists almost entirely of LeBron James or Dwyane Wade going to the basket and kicking out to one of the team's many, many three point shooters. Everyone on the team that plays more than 10 minutes a night is either a legendary sniper (Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers) or an automatic midrange shooter (Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh), and as a result, Wade and James have all the space in the world to create.
What Are They Bad At? Defense, especially against big post players. Miami has finally given up on playing a traditional center, going with a big man rotation of Bosh, Haslem, Lewis and James as a smallball power forward, and the result has been a defense that has been far worse than the one the Heat rode to the Finals the last two years. Miami's defense is ranked 21st in the NBA on a per possession basis this year. Miami's wing defenders are all really good, but without a shotblocker behind them, Miami's been allowing far too many baskets in the paint.
What's Going On With Dwyane Wade? Wade has experienced a bit of a statistical decline this season, with his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) at its lowest level since his rookie year. Wade has attributed his struggles to a combination of injuries and a change in his role. Unfortunately for Miami, it probably has a lot more to do with his almost-31-year-old legs slowing down. Never much of a shooter, Wade has always been able to dominate the league due to his outstanding athleticism, quickness, handles and basketball IQ. While his IQ and handles will always be there, the decline in his physical abilities is here to stay, and how much longer he can extend his prime will likely determine whether the Heat have a good couple of year or become a true dynasty.