By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 22, 2008
MIAMI, March 21 -- The Washington Wizards were presented with the scheduling equivalent of a layup Friday night. They took full advantage with a businesslike 103-86 victory over the dreadful Miami Heat at half-full American Airlines Arena.
The Wizards (35-33) have won five of their past six games, and eight of 11, and moved a half-game ahead of Toronto for fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
Washington also took a 3-0 lead in the season series with Miami (12-56), which has lost 10 of its past 11. The teams will meet once more this season, April 4 in Washington.
Caron Butler led the way with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting and Antawn Jamison added 22 points and 10 rebounds for his 39th double-double of the season, but the easy victory was as much a product of Miami's lack of talent as it was Washington's performance.
The Heat was coming off one of the worst losses in franchise history, a 96-54 defeat at Toronto on Wednesday night, and was without forward Shawn Marion (back), who joined Dwyane Wade, Alonzo Mourning, Udonis Haslem and Dorell Wright on the sideline.
At one point during the fourth quarter, Miami had five players on the court who were in the NBA's Development League earlier this month. The Wizards scored the game's first six points and never trailed, winning their season-high fourth straight road game.
"When you play in games like this, you want to put a team away," said Butler, disappointed that his alma mater, Connecticut, was upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday. "Once you give them a little life -- I mean, we all saw what happened to U-Conn. today. Those things happen. It messed up all of your brackets. It sure messed up my bracket. But seriously, teams you are supposed to beat, you have to put them away early and we did a good job of that."
As they did during the second half of Wednesday's 87-86 win at Orlando, the Wizards moved the ball with precision and made open shots. With 2 minutes 39 seconds left in the third, the Wizards led 81-58, were shooting 57.1 percent and the team's 32 field goals were the product of 21 assists.
Coming of a timeout late in the period, Antonio Daniels turned to Butler, Jamison, DeShawn Stevenson and Andray Blatche, to whom he delivered a message.
"It's time to step on them," said Daniels, who finished with nine points, seven assists and five rebounds. "Right now. Let's step on them."
They did just that, pushing the lead to 84-60 when Darius Songaila passed on an open shot and threw the ball to Roger Mason Jr., who made a jump shot. The Wizards outscored the Heat 35-23 in the period.
Mason finished with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting and every Wizard scored. Forward Bobby Jones, who is one of three Miami players on a 10-day contract, led the Heat with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Over the game's final 7:25, the Miami D-Leaguers outscored the Wizards' reserves 18-9.
"They are fighting for jobs, trying to show people that they belong in this league so you knew they were going to play hard," Jamison said. "So that was a point of emphasis: to really come out and play hard. It was one of those games if you don't come out prepared and mentally ready to play, it can be a problem."
Wizards Note: Guard Gilbert Arenas went through an intense workout on the court before the game.
"Right now, I'm just trying to get my wind back," said Arenas, who has not played since undergoing left knee surgery on Nov. 21. "I have to get back into game shape before trying to go out there."