It was another special night for Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center Tuesday, as the team shot well and hung tough with the defending World Champion Mimai Heat to win an improbable matchup 105-101.
Wizards Head Coach Randy Wittman trotted out yet another altered starting lineup with a switch at the power forward position this time. Kevin Seraphin sat the beginning of the game in favor of Chris Singleton, who finished with nine points and nine rebounds. Singleton joined Trevor Ariza, who left with an injury, Emeka Okafor, Bradley Beal and A.J. Price to form the full starting-five at tip-off.
It was one of the first times this year Wittman may have found, to quote him, “the right strings to pull.” The lineup gave the Wizards an early lead and set the tone for the whole team. This new starting five also set up a balanced rotation of players who scored consistently throughout the game. Their strong start gave the Wizards early momentum and really seemed to help the team truly believe it could win.
“I said [before the game], we need to have a statement game, we haven’t had a statement game,” Wittman told the press following the win. “And I said what better opportunity to come and play in front of the fans we knew was going to be here and beat this team and they took it to heart.”
It was a high flying and high scoring first half with both the Wizards and Heat making big plays. Jordan Crawford led Washington in scoring in the first with 12 points, six of which came from three-point paradise at the top of the key. He would use his strong first to propel him to a complete game, where he led Wizards in scoring on the evening with 22. Meanwhile the Heat had two shooters in double-digits with Chris Bosh tallying 14 points, 20 total on the night, and Dwayne Wade pocketing 11 of his 24 total points in the first two quarters.
LeBron James was conspicuously absent for most of the first half until he had a huge dunk and layup to get the Heat within two down the stretch in the second quarter. Washington would score the next two buckets though to neutralize the threat and headed to the half up 60-54.
In the past Washington has fallen apart in the third quarter, but they were able to maintain their lead through the third and into the fourth. Strong play defensively mixed with some much needed scoring helped the Wizards keep James and Wade at an arms length, even if it was a short one. The Wizards were so balanced in their scoring in the third, every Wizard who saw the floor, with the exception of Nene and Shuan Livingston, scored at least two points.
Washington continued to sink huge shots from all over in the fourth quarter to maintain their lead. Martell Webster put the Wizards up four by hitting an important three-pointer with a little over five and a half minutes to go in the fourth. The bucket allowed Washington to keep Miami at bay and allow the Wizards to maintain their momentum.
“It was real big, it was a big shot, you know the Miami players were playing with a lot of confidence,” Crawford said of Webster’s three. “I dont want anybody else taking it but Martell, he is the best three-point shooter on the team.”
With less than half a minute left, the Heat got a stop at their end of the floor and got the ball in James’ hands for a three that would have given them the lead. He released from the high left side of the arc, but failed to knock down the shot. Miami was then forced to foul and sent Crawford to the line who hit one and missed one to give the Heat a shot at the tie with 10 seconds left. The Heat would never knot it up though and after a series of fouls and possessions, the Wizards finally closed the game out for their second win of the year.
The win, their second in three games, improves the Wizards to 2-13. It was a hard fought win for the Wizards who shot well and really kept up the scoring throughout all four quarters to outpace the Heat. Washington will look to make it two in a row, and three in their last for games, against the Atlanta Hawks on the road Friday.