On Saturday night in South Beach, the Washington Wizards beat a LeBron James/Chris Bosh/Dwyane Wade-less Miami Heat team, 86-84. The Wizards improved to 17-46 on the season without Trevor Booker, Roger Mason Jr., Andray Blatche and Rashard Lewis, as Ted Leonsis might remind you (playing without Blatche… very funny, Ted). Showing signs and giving hope that this current set of players is more worthy of playing together as a team going into next season, the Wizards now hold the second-worst record in the NBA after the seven-win Charlotte Bobcats and before the 20-win Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets. With three games left, beating the Heat also gives Washington their first three-game win streak of the season. The Wizards won three in a row once late last season over the Cavaliers, Bobcats and Pistons. Prior to that, a streak of three wins or longer hadn’t been accomplished since victories over the Heat, Bulls and Pistons in April 2008. Below is the reaction to that rare third win.
With nine assists and zero turnovers in the fourth quarter (13 and five on the night), how could I not give the MVP to John Wall (especially after I spoke bad about his passing on Twitter)? Also, credit the strength of Nene’s hands and his ability to finish with agility; four of Wall’s assists in the final period were off pick-and-roll action to the Brazilian, including the game-winning layup with 0.5 seconds left. But, ultimately it was John’s blazing bursts of speed that Mario Chalmers could not touch which gave the Wizards better chances, and the win. Wall still has major lessons to learn about creating and seeing passing lanes, and his jump shot continued to look bad (0-for-5 outside the paint; 13 points on 6-for-11 FGs), but he was active on defense (four steals) and put his body on the line to draw a key charge against Udonis Haslem late in the game. Wall had what it took to win on this night.
Cartier Martin scored a career high 22 points of the bench on 8-for-15 shooting, 4-for-8 from 3-point land. It wasn’t just Cartier’s ability to catch and shoot, but his overall offensive game has really shown improvement in this latest stint with the Wizards; he had a huge dunk off a Wall pass to put the Wizards up 82-80 with 1:30 left. Martin also stepped up his defensive focus against the Heat (from recent efforts), and put his body on the line to draw two tough charges; five rebounds isn’t bad, either. Of course, I’d be remiss to not also give an X-Factor nod to Kevin Seraphin (17 points, 8-for-15 FGs, six rebounds). He continues to amaze on offense. Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman, Halsem, not one of those Heat bigs had the length get around Seraphin’s wide body and truly contest his array of offensive post moves. He really must be surprising and re-writing any scouting report against him with his ability to hit that quick, soft hook shot using either hand.
Mario Chalmers tied Mike Miller with 16 points to lead the Heat in scoring — LeBron and Bosh sat out, Wade dislocated a finger early three minutes into the game and called it a night early — and Mario also made a couple big plays late, including scoring Miami’s first fastbreak bucket, And-1, to tie the game at 80. However, Chalmers’ six turnovers set a sloppy offensive tone for Miami, and 5-for-17 shooting won’t cut it on most nights when the team is depending on him to score. OK, so that won’t happen on most nights, but still, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra can’t be impressed with how his starting point guard performed with the chance to shine on his own.
That Was… Perseverance through Ugliness.
Washington led 23-15 after one quarter mostly because the Heat had eight turnovers, this gave the Wiz Kids a kick-start with 10 fastbreak points in the period. From there, the game had several bouts of ugly from both teams, with Washington even showing a bit of complacency while holding an early lead. In the third quarter, shooters like James Jones got the inches of space that they needed from Wizards defenders. One time, Chris Singleton chased Jones hard moving off the ball, but when it looked like the play had broken down in Chalmers’ hands, Singleton feel asleep and lost track of Jones, who then hit the bailout 3-pointer. But, Jones scored all of his nine points on 3-pointers in that 25-18 Miami third quarter run, so the Wizards were able to limit his effectiveness to one stretch.
It looked like it might get bad for Washington when Miller (4-for-8 on 3-pointers) scored Miami’s first eight points of the fourth quarter to give them a 70-66 lead. But, the Wizards persevered, again thanks to Wall. It wasn’t the best basketball to watch, and game slippage from Washington wasn’t great to see, if not understandable. The redeeming factor is that this team is not selfish like the team was when it featured Nick Young, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, which makes them more willing and able to fight for each other at the end of games, even if against a Heat squad without its three stars.