[Ed. Note: Kelly Cohen is a great writer. Unfortunately, she is also a Heat fan for reasons we don't quite understand. Here is her perspective on tonight's game. -Jake]
It's a switcheroo that many NBA fans are still getting used to: the Washington Wizards are better than the Miami Heat.
The latter are looking for payback down in South Beach on Friday night, as the winners of nine of their last 10 take on a team that has lost seven of their last 10.
In the first game of a four game regular season series - which also happened to be the season opener for both teams - the Heat got the best of the Wizards, exposing vulnerabilities on defense and stifling a Wizards offense that was missing several key players to injury and suspension. Back in D.C. earlier this month, the Wizards got revenge and blew out the Heat thanks to a hot hand beyond the arc - and have stayed hot ever since.
Now, the Wiz Kids, off to their best start in over 35 years, seek a win in Florida against a team that if it loses, will be on its longest home losing streak since March 2008.
Where and when? Game time is 7:30 p.m. at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla. You can watch the game (and be envious of the Florida warmth) over on Comcast. If you're a radio person, tune into 99.1 FM.
Who's Out? Martell Webster is still inactive. After sitting out Tuesday's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves because of a sore toe, Paul Pierce was limited in practice Thursday and is listed as questionable. The Heat, on the other hand, have seen better days: Chris Bosh and Josh McRoberts are both out with injuries, while Danny Granger, Justin Hamilton and Dwyane Wade are all day-to-day with illnesses.
Are they good? Well, as much as I, a loyal Heat fan, want to say yes, the answer is not really. In three games without Bosh, Miami has averaged just 85.7 points per game. Furthermore during its four-game home losing streak, Miami has allowed 106.0 points per game and a 52.8 shooting percentage - including 50 percent from beyond the arc (hi, Rasual Butler).
How are the Wiz doing? Unless you live under a rock, they're doing pretty damn great. After being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, John Wall had what he called his best game in a Wizards uniform on Tuesday against Minnesota, finishing with 21 points and 17 assists. The squad is averaging 106.7 points per game with an NBA-best 28.1 assists in the month of December - a month that started with a win against the Heat. Oh yeah, they are also second in the Eastern Conference, just one game back of the Toronto Raptors.
But what about Dwyane Wade? He is a bright spot in an otherwise dismal Miami Heat world. He finished with 42 points in a loss against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, his highest since he had 45 in 2010. However, the rest of the Heat shot less than 30 percent that night, an accurate representation of how bland the offense has been this season. Wade's matchup against fellow shooting guard Bradley Beal, who is striving to take the best SG in the East crown from him, is definitely one to watch.
Can I have a random stat please? The Heat have used nine different starting lineups in the last 13 games. The Wizards have used just five different lineups this entire season.
Who's going to win? Surprisingly, the Wizards have lost their last five games in Miami. But, as noted, the Heat have dropped four in a row and home and seven of their last eight. Since the two teams last played in D.C. on Dec. 1, the Wiz - especially Wall - have been hotter then, well, heat. Against the rest of the conference, Washington is 12-5 and Miami is 8-8.
It's also important to keep in mind that Wall is playing one of the best month's of basketball in his career thus far. In December's nine games, he has averaged 17.2 points, 13.2 assists, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks. He's also been shooing 49 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.
From an NBA standpoint, both teams need this win - Miami to boost the confidence, Washington to keep the haters quiet. Tonight's game will be a great Friday night matchup and it'll come down to who wants it more.