MIAMI — Andre Miller backed down Miami Heat reserve Ray Allen, dribbling, probing. He bobbed his head to freeze Allen, lifted the ball high above his head to get Chris Bosh to jump and eventually spotted Drew Gooden wide open under the basket for a layup that gave the Washington Wizards a one-point lead over the two-time defending champions in the fourth quarter.
An unlikely crunch-time pair just a month ago, Miller and Gooden had the Wizards in an unexpected position at American Airlines Arena on Monday night before Dwyane Wade and the Heat quickly crushed any fantasies about winning in Miami for the first time in nearly two years.
Playing the second end of back-to-back games for just the third time this season, Wade came swooping down the lane, splitting Miller and Gooden for a reverse layup that ignited a 12-0 run to propel the Heat to a 99-90 victory. Wade scored 13 of his 22 points in the final period, when the Wizards wilted under his dominance and their own miscues and watched a five-game road winning streak come to an end.
“We made too many mistakes,” Marcin Gortat said after the Wizards committed 19 turnovers, six in the fourth quarter. “Against a team like that, you can’t make so many mistakes. They are going to punish you and that’s what they did. It was a tough loss, but we’re not going to fall on the ground and cry. We’re just going to try to get stronger and win the next game.”
Bradley Beal led the Wizards with 18 points and Gortat had a game-high 18 rebounds and 14 points, but the Heat held John Wall and Trevor Ariza — the Wizards’ top two scorers in the previous six games without Nene — to a combined 13 points on 4-of-19 shooting.
Ariza had been carrying the Wizards offensively since Nene went down with injury. After averaging 24.5 points and connecting on 68.3 percent of his three-point attempts in the previous six games, Ariza finally cooled off Monday. Burdened with trying to keep up with four-time league MVP LeBron James, Ariza scored just six points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field, including 1 of 7 from three-point range. Ariza also had five turnovers, including a five-second violation during that critical, Wade-fueled run.
“That definitely hurt. I think we were kind of too lackadaisical with the ball,” Beal said. “A lot of unsure decisions. We should’ve been a little more aggressive. If it’s an aggressive mistake, it’s one you can live with rather than one you wish you had back.”
The Wizards (33-30) were attempting to win six consecutive road games for the first time since December 2001. But they had a difficult time offensively, with the Heat focused on getting the ball out of Wall’s hands, which resulted in him attempting just eight shots and being forced to play setup man. Wall finished with as many points as turnovers (seven).
“That’s what great teams do, they take you away,” said Wall, who had 25 points and nine assists when the Wizards throttled the Heat by 17 points in Washington two months ago. “They did a great job of trapping me. I had a couple of careless turnovers. I missed a couple of easy shots. That’s something that happens.”
Wizards Coach Randy Wittman tried to free up Wall by pairing him with Miller for the first time since the Wizards acquired the 14-year veteran from Denver at the trade deadline. They shared the floor briefly in the fourth quarter before Wittman chose to finish the game with Martell Webster. Webster made four three-pointers — including a four-point play during a 21-5 third-quarter run — and scored 17 points to lead a spirited effort from the Wizards’ bench, which contributed 39 points.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Wittman said. “They kept battling and working.”
Last month Gooden was watching basketball games on television and hoping an NBA team would give him a call. The Wizards knew Gooden had been in Bethesda since January, working out on his own, and finally reached out after Nene sprained his left knee and Kevin Seraphin developed soreness in his right knee. The move has paid off handsomely in the past three games, with Gooden scoring in double figures in all of them and producing a new season high each time.
“My confidence is back and I’m at ease. I have nothing to lose,” said Gooden, who finished Monday’s game with 15 points in slightly more than 17 minutes on 7-of-12 shooting. “People say I’m playing with the house’s money. I kind of got that feeling going right now. Whether it’s the Heat or the Milwaukee Bucks, I’m going to come out and play the same way.”
Gooden’s layup with 5 minutes 54 seconds left in the fourth put the Wizards ahead, 84-83, but Wade refused to let Miami lose four straight games for the first time since 2011, the first season that he, James and Bosh joined forces.
Wade had been pacing himself and sparing his sore knees by avoiding playing games on consecutive nights this season, but he didn’t hold back down the stretch. He gave the Heat back the lead with a three-point play, found Bosh (22 points) for two jumpers and James (23 points) for another, then put the Heat ahead, 95-84, with another driving layup.
The Heat improved to a league-best 30-4 at home this season.
“He increased his play,” Beal said of Wade. “That’s a great player. You’re always going expect that out of one of the big three. They all played well. They all had 20. D-Wade definitely had a big fourth quarter for them.”