For the second time in three years, the Washington Wizards (42-38) will play their final regular-season home game against the Miami Heat. And for the third straight season, LeBron James will sit out the teams’ final meeting to rest in preparation for the looming playoffs.
But for Monday’s contest at Verizon Center, the circumstances are quite different for the Wizards. For the first time in six years, will also join Miami in the Eastern Conference playoffs, making for a motivated Wizards squad that hopes to not only hold on to the No. 6 spot in the postseason but also to continue its strong effort on the defensive end.
“You’ve got to take care of the ball against this team,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said of Miami. “They turn turnovers into points and in the two games that they beat us, I think we averaged around 20 turnovers. They’re just so athletic that if you give them an open court with free reign, they usually convert those. You can’t give them easy points.”
After averaging 19 turnovers in two losses at Miami, the Wizards turned over a new leaf in the teams’ Jan. 15 meeting at Verizon Center, turning the ball over just 12 times while recording more rebounds and assists than the Heat (54-26). The result? A 43-point first quarter, a 34-point lead in the first half and a 114-97 victory, extending a win streak that also included victories against Chicago.
Nene will return to the Wizards lineup after sitting out Saturday’s game to rest his knee during the second of back-to-back games. The veteran forward finished with 19 points and nine assists in Washington’s win against Miami and on Monday, he won’t have to worry about Chris Bosh, who is also taking the night off to rest.
The Wizards are looking for their first three-game win streak since March 1.
(TV: Comcast SportsNet Plus. Radio: WJFK-106.7 MF, WFED-1500 AM).
Here’s some reading to get you ready for tonight’s game: