MIAMI – LeBron James pump-faked and Trevor Booker went into flight. James watched Booker soar past him over his left shoulder, then dipped inside to attract Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. Martell Webster scrambled to go after Ray Allen in the corner but stopped once he saw James leap into the air. Looking left, James had the Wizards frozen as he threw a no-look pass to a cutting Dwyane Wade for an uncontested two-handed dunk.
The Heat had its way with the Wizards for much of the night on Sunday, scoring with little resistance against a suddenly porous defense that has now allowed more than 100 points in all three of its games. But Washington also was having problems coming up with an offensive counter as the Wizards racked up misses from all over the court in a 103-93 loss.
Miami shot 55.2 percent while the Wizards made just 38.3 percent through the first three quarters. The sequence that perhaps summed up the Wizards’ offensive woes at American Airlines Arena came in the third quarter, when Booker air balled a hook. Trevor Ariza got the rebound and promptly had his short jumper blocked by Udonis Haslem, then missed two layups before getting fouled. Despite falling behind by 23 points, the Wizards insisted that there was more to feel good about from a game in which they avoided getting blown off the court.
“We played with a lot of energy,” Beal said. “We’ll never give up. For some reason, we play harder when we’re down. We hate to lose, but we felt that we did a lot of good things out there.”
Beal had his best game in the early part of the season. He scored a team-high 19 points, connected on four three-pointers and even had an alley-oop layup after catching a pass with reserve Eric Maynor. Jokingly crediting his success on being back in the state where he starred in college – “Yeah, it was the weather,” he said – Beal found a way to move without the ball and get open looks.
“What frustrates me is the fact that I can’t get the shot that I necessarily want,” Beal said. “It’s a sign of respect. But it’s a sign that I need to learn to move without the ball more and find my teammates as well. I was moving to the open spots and just shooting with confidence. My confidence was never down, it was just the fact that the ball just wasn’t falling in and it dropped” on Sunday.
But the Wizards didn’t start to make the game somewhat respectable until Coach Randy Wittman replaced Beal with Wall early in the fourth quarter, with the team trailing by 20. Wall shared the floor with Maynor and they led the Wizards on a long climb back into the game. Maynor fed Kevin Seraphin for a jumper, then made a three-pointer and found Ariza for a three-pointer.
When Wall found Ariza for another three-pointer with 7 minutes 19 seconds remaining, the Wizards trailed just 91-80. Twenty seconds later, Maynor added a layup to bring the Wizards within 10. They would continue to make the game interesting until the final minute.
Beal returned and made a driving layup that got the Wizards within 100-93, but he missed a free that that could’ve made the ending a little more intriguing. The Wizards outscored the Heat, 29-16, in the fourth quarter and hope that they will be able to carry over the success into their next game on Wednesday against Philadelphia.
“We executed on offense and we played better defense. We’ve got to install this in our brains and do it every day. You play a team that you think ain’t good enough, you still got to be able to do it because every team is capable of winning,” Wall said. “This is something positive. You look at how we played with energy. Got to do this against every team and not just when we play the Heat or the Lakers or those Clippers type teams.”