Miami's Beached, but Wizards Are Wary

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008

MIAMI, Feb. 20 -- There are teams that deal with injuries, such as the Washington Wizards, who have played nearly the entire season without three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas. And then there are teams that are devastated by injuries, such as the Miami Heat.

Shortly after the Wizards finished off an 87-86 win at Orlando on Wednesday night, several players were shocked to hear the details of Miami's 96-54 loss at Toronto that evening.

Already without Dwyane Wade and Alonzo Mourning for the remainder of the season, Miami played without starters Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem and Jason Williams, dressing only seven healthy players.

The 54 points were a franchise low for the 2006 NBA champion and Miami came within five points of matching the NBA's lowest-scoring game in the shot-clock era. The final tally was also the largest margin of victory in Toronto's 13-season history.

"Wow," was the reaction of Wizards' guard DeShawn Stevenson when told what happened in Toronto. "I thought we had some injuries this year. That's rough right there."

However, the sixth-place Wizards, who maintained a precarious half-game lead over Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference with Wednesday's win, understand that Friday's game at Miami could be a classic trap.

"Those are the games we get curfews on," said Stevenson, referring to the 1 a.m. curfew Coach Eddie Jordan imposed for Thursday night. "We play well against big teams and then teams that don't have their star players, we come out sluggish and we get waxed. So, we have to keep our confidence up and hopefully, we can go out there and get that win."

With Arenas promising to return "way before the playoffs" and all-star Caron Butler battling his way back into game shape while working to regain a basketball rhythm after missing 16 straight games with a left hip injury, the Wizards appear to be establishing themselves for the stretch run.

The team was won four of its last five games, and that stretch has included wins over playoff contenders Orlando, Cleveland and Toronto.

"It shows what type of team we are," Haywood said. "People have kind of slept on us all year long, but when we get healthy and get guys playing at the level they are supposed to, we can be mentioned with any of the teams in the East."

Wednesday's victory at Orlando stood out because the Wizards battled back from a 10-point first half deficit and won despite the fact that they shot only 42.7 percent as a team.

Defensive intensity that was lacking throughout Monday's 105-96 home loss to Atlanta proved to be the key as the Wizards held the Magic without a field goal for the game's final 3 minutes 7 seconds.

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