As if facing the defending champs on the road without Nene weren't enough, Washington had to deal with a Miami team that was extra motivated, having lost three straight. Thanks to a 50-33 rebounding advantage, the Wizards were actually able to overcome terrible offensive nights from John Wall and Trevor Ariza enough to hold the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but they mustered only six points over the last six minutes of the game, and the Heat pulled away for the win. Washington shot only 40.4 percent for the game, while Miami made precisely half of its shots.
The score was tied 73-73 to begin the fourth quarter, which Randy Wittman began with the AARP crew on the floor. The Wizards quickly found themselves down six, but with LeBron James grabbing some rest, a couple long jumpers by Drew Gooden and Martell Webster closed the deficit. Andre Miller got Washington the lead back with a textbook post-up basket and, after drawing a double team on another post up, a savvy feed to a wide-open Gooden under the basket.
But Wittman probably waited a tick too long in getting Marcin Gortat back onto the floor, and when LeBron checked back in the Heat swiftly retook the lead, pushing it to 95-84 when Wade made a driving layup with 3:14 to play. Bradley Beal answered with a three, but Wall -- who had an awful game with seven points, eight assists and seven turnovers -- pressed the issue on a couple empty possessions, stonewalling any potential comeback. When Wade nailed a jumper to push the lead to 97-87 with 1:48 to play, the game was over.
James kicked off the game scorching, making three consecutive threes to start. Gortat began just as hot on the glass, collecting 10 rebounds in the first quarter, including seven offensive boards. In fact, it was only by virtue of Washington's rebounding that it was even in the game after the first quarter, during which it shot 27 percent, while Miami's shooting percentage hovered around 70 percent. The Wizards cut Miami's lead to one before a couple Ray Allen threes left the Wizards trailing, 31-23, heading into the second quarter.
Somehow, the Wiz clawed back thanks to the hot shooting of Gooden. I'll repeat that: DREW GOODEN. Dude started 4-for-4 from the field, including a made three-pointer to again cut the Miami lead to one. I mean, wut? Thanks largely to their 13 offensive rebounds, the Wizards only trailed 53-45 at halftime despite shooting 34 percent compared to 54 percent shooting for the Heat. James destroyed Webster down low in the second quarter, finishing with 19 first-half points on 8-of-10 shooting, yet somehow he didn't attempt a free throw.
Gortat did his best to keep Washington in the game in the third quarter, coming up with several big shots, rebounds and defensive plays. Every time Miami seemed poised to pull away, the Polish Machine nailed a tough shot in the paint. The Wizards briefly took the lead, 68-64, after Webster completed one of his trademark four-point plays, followed it up with a fast break slam, and Ariza nailed his first three of the game. The Heat retook the lead on a LeBron tip-in, but Gortat made a layup with 31 seconds left in the quarter to tie the score, 73-73, heading into the fourth.
Ariza, who entered the game shooting 68 percent from three in four March contests, really struggled, finishing with six points on 2-of-11 shooting (1-for-7 from three). It didn't help that Miami had the Wizards expertly scouted, repeatedly shutting off the corners moments before ball handlers were looking to kick it out.
Beal and Webster were still able to get up some open shots, scoring 18 and 17 points, respectively. Gortat was incredible with 14 points and 18 rebounds, and Gooden (15 points) was also huge, but ultimately the Wizards were unable to overcome subpar nights from Wall and Ariza.
A few random notes:
- Otto Porter made his first shot, a spot-up jumper from about 20 feet. That is all.
- Webster got fouled again on a three. Unreal. Only difference this time is his shot spun out of the hoop.
- Michael Beasley outrunning Uncle Al Harrington down court for an easy alley oop? Check.
- How bad are Miami basketball fans? They don't even chant "AIRBALL" when an opponent airballs a three. *shakes head*
- Holy crap they fouled Webster on a three AGAIN, except this time Mart3ll made it!!