By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 29, 2009
MIAMI, Jan. 28 -- As the Miami Heat suffered through an injury-plagued 2007-08 campaign that ended with the team owning only 15 victories and a spot in the NBA draft lottery, star guard Dwyane Wade remarked that it was the kind of experience he wouldn't wish on anyone.
It's a year later and whether wished upon them or not, the Washington Wizards are living through the exact same kind of season. A 93-71 loss to Wade and the Heat at American Airlines Arena on Wednesday night dropped the Wizards to a league-worst 9-36.
After looking sharp to open the game and taking a seven-point lead early in the second quarter, the short-handed Wizards, who lost starting center Andray Blatche to a knee injury during Monday's home loss to the Phoenix Suns, were ground down by a balanced Miami attack that was spearheaded by Wade, who just missed a triple-double by finishing with 14 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds before taking a seat for the fourth quarter.
With Antawn Jamison (21 points, 12 rebounds) and Caron Butler (18 points, six assists) as their only two consistent scorers, the Wizards struggled en route to shooting 37 percent as a team and scoring a season-low 71 points.
Darius Songaila started in place of Blatche and posted 10 points and three rebounds, but no other Wizard scored in double figures and the thin bench was outscored 50-14 by the much deeper Heat.
"It's the same thing we've seen so many times this season," said Butler, who also had six turnovers as he and Jamison were again swarmed by an opposing defense. "Play well for a half or three quarters but then have problems in the fourth and lose. That's just been our season."
Wade, who missed much of last season with shoulder and knee injuries, put on a stunning display of athleticism late in the third quarter as the Heat pulled away.
He made a steal off an errant Javaris Crittenton pass near the far sideline and kept the ball from going out of bounds before making a pass to Michael Beasley near midcourt.
After regaining his balance, Wade received a pass back from Beasley before lobbing a perfect alley-oop to Daequan Cook, who caught it at the rim and threw down a two-handed dunk.
Wade, who finished with seven points, six rebounds and four assists in the third quarter alone, closed the quarter with a buzzer-beating dunk that gave Miami a 70-56 lead that would never be threatened.
The Wizards got off to a solid start and led 21-15 late in the first quarter after Nick Young completed a 6-0 push with a drive and score, but some sloppy defensive play in the second quarter got them into trouble and opened the door for the Heat to retake the lead.
First, Beasley took advantage of seldom used second-year forward Oleksiy Pecherov by scoring seven points in a span of less than three minutes and later, Cook gave the Heat a 41-39 halftime lead by making a pair of three-pointers.
The Wizards were outscored 23-16 in the second quarter and struggled to handle Beasley, who scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in the period.
The Wizards briefly went ahead early in the second half when Jamison cut, received a pass from Dominic McGuire and made a layup, but Miami responded with an 8-0 run that included a dunk by Wade, a drive and layup by Wade, a Wade free throw and a three-pointer by Cook.
The Miami lead swelled to 60-50 when Wade drove, drew the defense and passed out to Mario Chalmers, who made an open three-pointer. Miami shot only 39 percent overall but connected on 10 of 32 three-point attempts.
"He is one of the very best players in the NBA," Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott said of Wade. "He plays at a very high level and you can see the impact that he's had because if I'm not mistaken, without him last season, Miami had a record a lot like ours and now he's back and they are a playoff contender in the East. That's a testament not just to his scoring but also his defense, his passing and all of the things he brings to a team."
Wizards Notes: Injured guard Gilbert Arenas, who continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left knee, joined the team for the two-game road trip that continues Friday night at Philadelphia. Arenas did not make last week's four-game, seven-day trip out West.
Blatche and Etan Thomas, who remains out with a left knee injury, did not make the trip.