(Photo Credit: Ned Dishman)
The Miami HEAT fell 114-97 to the Washington Wizards Wednesday night at the Verizon Center. The loss is the HEAT's third straight, their longest regular season losing streak since the January of 2012.
Impact Performance of the Night: John Wall made his All-Star case a little stronger tonight, finishing with 25 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Wall scored 11 points in the Wizards’ big first quarter and 14 in the fourth quarter to close things out. His quickness gave the HEAT trouble and he also got his jumper going a bit to hurt the Miami defense. Wall had a big block on Ray Allen in the fourth quarter that was a big swing play as the HEAT were chipping away at the Wizards lead.
The Deciding Run: The first quarter performance from the Wizards was impressive. They outscored the HEAT 43-18, jumping out to a large lead that the HEAT couldn’t come back from. A 25-2 run during the frame was the run that really pushed Washington out ahead. The HEAT offense couldn’t get anything going, turning the ball over, which allowed the Wizards to get out in the open floor. The fastbreaks led to easy points for Washington and that led to a very large lead. The HEAT cut the deficit to nine points on four different occasions in the second half, but they couldn’t get over the hump.
Play of the Game: Norris Cole cut the Wizards lead to nine points with 4:30 left. It was still a manageable deficit for the HEAT, who had played better in the second half. But the Wizards wouldn’t let the HEAT back into it. Bradley Beal pushed the lead back to 11 on the next trip down the floor, then the Wizards defense force LeBron James into a missed layup. John Wall drew a foul and the HEAT were all of a sudden down 13. The defense by Trevor Booker to force the James miss was impressive. There’s a good chance the Wizards would have won anyways, but that play plus the free throws sealed the HEAT’s fate.
Efficiency Rating: Offensive Efficiency: 101.6; Defensive Efficiency: 124.7
Trend to Watch: The HEAT struggled with little things in the first half, which resulted in a huge hole for them to dig out of. Miami turned the ball over in a series of strange ways, missing simple passes and dribbling balls off their feet. These turnovers were a boon for the Wizards offense, giving them easy bucket after easy bucket. On defensive possessions that weren’t started by turnovers, the HEAT were off as well. The Wizards used penetration and passing to generate open looks all over the floor. Their jumpers were open and their layups were uncontested. That’s a tough combo to overcome and the HEAT weren’t able to. The defense got better in the second half, but it was too late. Even then, gambles and miscommunications led to easy baskets at inopportune times. The HEAT have four games in the next six nights. They have an opportunity to tighten things up and there’s a good chance they will. As we have reiterated in this space before, these are the same issues that have popped up the past few seasons. Each and every time the HEAT have had these lulls, they’ve been able to bounce back and get back to their defensive principles.
The Takeaway: We’re not going to dwell over a mid-January loss when something much more important happened. Greg Oden played his first regular season game in a HEAT jersey, scoring six points, grabbing two rebounds and altering a few shots. His insertion into the game in the second quarter kicked off a HEAT run that gave them a chance heading into the second half. Oden’s play is encouraging and gave the HEAT a little glimpse at what he might be capable of. It’s exciting for Oden and for the team. As much as that matters, and it surely does, tonight we got to see a 25 year old get back to doing what he loves. And that’s a much bigger deal. Injuries ripped Oden from the game of basketball, but he fought back when many wouldn’t have. His eight minutes tonight were a joy to watch because of his unique situation. It was a giant step forward for Oden and his reaction to his first dunk was tremendous. Here’s to many more good moments for Oden. He deserves them.
Notes: Chris Bosh led the HEAT with 26 points and seven rebounds. LeBron James finished with 25 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Norris Cole scored 15 points. Mario Chalmers and Chris Andersen were inactive.