WASHINGTON -- Given the way the Miami Heat were playing recently, I expected a close game. The Heat have consistently let inferior teams hang around all year, after all. But never did I think that the 1-13 Washington Wizards would actually find a way to make the big plays down the stretch to seal a victory. Not when the Heat have LeBron James and Dwyane Wade ... and the Wizards have nobody, really.
I guess that's why they play the games, then. A lineup of Shaun Livingston, Jordan Crawford, Martell Webster, Chris Singleton and Kevin Seraphin did just enough to hold the Heat off at the end, and the Wizards came away with a shocking 105-101 win when LeBron James' final game-tying three-point attempt missed.
The Wizards certainly didn't look like the inept team we've seen all year. Their offense was fluid and their transition game, even without John Wall, actually existed. They put together a balanced scoring effort and, with the aid of some missed Miami three-pointers, got enough stops down the stretch to get the win. I don't know how it happened either, in case you're wondering. For now, let's celebrate and figure out what happened later.
The game notes:
- I liked seeing Trevor Ariza drive to the basket on his first touch instead of settling for a jumper. He obviously missed the layup, but that's better than him clanking 19-footers.
- When Chris Singleton pops out after setting a ball screen, he needs to understand that it's better for him to pop all the way out to the three-point line than to the 18-foot range. He can take a three-pointer, which is one extra point, and he also has more space to pump fake and drive to the basket. There's a reason they are called "stretch 4s." When you only pop out to 18 feet, you aren't really stretching the defense.
- It's really unfortunate that Bradley Beal picked up two early fouls. He seemed to be in a good rhythm offensively.
- Good stuff from A.J. Price early on. He has the capability of being aggressive, but too often searches for his jump shot. He'd be better off just playing instead of trying to set up a certain kind of play.
- The Wizards started a small lineup because they were worried about how the Heat would spread them out, but of course, even with that small lineup ... the Heat spread them out. Chris Bosh had his way with Emeka Okafor in pick and pop situations, which is no surprise. It's really hard to defend Miami when he is hitting his perimeter shots, because no big man in the NBA can consistently prevent him from getting to his spots.
- The Heat's defense appears to be broken right now. They pressure the ball too much and leave way too many openings for spot-up opportunities. Singleton only spotted up from 18 feet, and he still had enough room to fake a shot, drive to the rim and draw a foul. They went through a stretch like this in the regular season, but consistently playing small has exacerbated the problem. Good on the Wizards for continuing to move the ball from side to side, though.
- Nene is sometimes too unselfish. He had his shoulders by a defender twice on a post-up and a re-post, and he still passed out to Kevin Seraphin for a jumper.
- People will point to Jordan Crawford's three in Ray Allen's face at the end of the quarter, but I was happier to see Crawford fake a long shot, drive to the basket and attack the Heat's big men on the previous possession. He missed, but the drive set up an offensive rebound and a dunk for Nene.
- On the bright side, Nene does set up so many opportunities for the Wizards. That Crawford drive I just wrote about happened because the Heat cheated down to half-double Nene, opening up the lane for Crawford to drive off the kickout. The Wizards ran Nene into the post throughout the second quarter, and Udonis Haslem consistently failed to stop him one on one. That forced the Heat to send hard and soft doubles, which helped widen the floor for everyone else. Nene certainly has no problems passing out, and that helped everyone.
- Because both teams were getting killed on pick and roll, there were tons of offensive rebounds on both sides. It's a good time to remind folks that offensive rebounds usually happen because of a breakdown in your initial defense.
- Nice little wrinkle to have Singleton screening for Martell Webster. If thrown in occasionally, stuff like that can confuse the defense because they're not sure whether to switch, hedge, contain or defend it any other way. Do it too often and the defense just switches. But if it's worked in occasionally, it can catch the defense off guard.
- Great job by Beal to slide his feet and cut off Wade's drive to the basket. It's hard stopping Wade when he has a full head of steam, but Beal beat him to the spot and forced Wade into a floater. It's too bad Beal missed the layup on the other end, but the Wizards still scored out of that play.
- Closing quarters is critical, so the transition possession where nobody picked up LeBron and Joel Anthony eventually got a dunk was very problematic. Poor concentration by all involved.
- Those two layups by Beal -- one in a spot-up situation, another on the fast break -- were critical in stemming the tide at the end of the half. Nene probably passed out of a layup of his own to get Beal a shot, but at least it worked out. This was one of Beal's strongest halves of the season.
- It makes me nervous that Price hit his first two jumpers of the second half. He started searching them out again, and I fear that means he'll continue to take jumpers instead of driving.
- I did like the way he was finding people off pick and roll. There seemed to be a lot more flow in the Wizards' offense in this game.
- Randy Wittman promised that the Wizards would play at a faster pace before the game, and we saw that manifest itself in that third quarter. The Wizards did a great job of pitching the ball ahead up the wings, which allowed them to get more fast breaks and got them into their sets much quicker. This was the style I envisioned when the season began, but we really haven't seen it.
- Part of the problem with playing fast is that the Heat also like to play fast. So, when Kevin Seraphin comes up with a huge block on LeBron on one end, it's a killer that he committed the offensive foul coming back the other way. You can't begrudge Seraphin for his aggression, but that play hurt.
- Nene needs to look to score more often. He's passing out when he has the ball right underneath the hoop.
- Seraphin's lack of patience was on full display at the 10-minute mark. He got the ball with plenty of room to operate off a beautiful pick and roll pass from Crawford, and instead of working his way in close with a power move, he took one dribble, panicked and threw a crosscourt pass that led to a missed jumper.
- The Wizards got a bit out of control on a couple fast-break opportunities early in that fourth quarter. Livingston trying to throw a lob to Webster was a good idea, but horribly executed. Singleton's 18-foot jumper probably wasn't needed. Seraphin's 17-foot jumper was ... ugh.
- It's so great when you can run a pick and roll, rotate the ball to the big man, immediately swing it to a weakside shooter for an open three ... and feel like the shooter is actually going to make the shot. That's what Martell Webster gives you that nobody else on this team can.
- Great, great crossscreen by Crawford to free Seraphin for that open baby jumper. That was vicious.
- Man, the Wizards dodged a ton of bullets late. The Heat had a lot of open three-point looks, and those threes by Webster and Crawford were both really bad shots given the situation. But when Mike Miller and Ray Allen keep missing open threes, it works out OK.
- Not sure how Livingston prevented LeBron from scoring in a one-on-one situation in transition, but I'll take it. Very good game from Livingston in this one.
- You all know what the Heat were going to run late in this one.
- It wasn't the cleanest closeout in the world, but Singleton's tenacity in running Miller off the three-point line messed up his rhythm and saved a bucket for the Wizards. Miller would have hit that three. He had more difficulty hitting that two.
- LeBron settled on that go-ahead three-point attempt. Thought he could have faked the shot and drove.