By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 19, 2010; 12:24 AM
Following a chaotic afternoon that included the prospect of an appearance by President Obama and the reality that Gilbert Arenas was no longer part of the team, the Washington Wizards still had a game to play. The opponent? None other than the Miami Heat, which was making its first visit to the nation's capital since LeBron James's polarizing decision to take his act to South Florida.
Despite the distractions and being without ailing John Wall for a second straight game, the Wizards almost pulled off the unthinkable. They pushed Miami to the brink on Saturday night at Verizon Center before unraveling in the closing seconds of an excruciating 95-94 loss before a sellout crowd of 20,278 that ultimately didn't include the president, whose plans to attend changed.
Boy, did he miss a good one.
Washington had a chance to win when point guard Kirk Hinrich got the ball with 7.9 seconds to play after Dwyane Wade made a pair of foul shots for the Heat, which won its 12th in a row to match the longest active streak in the league. Playing all but six seconds of the game, Hinrich dribbled almost the length of the court and drove into the lane, where he appeared to draw contact-"I got fouled," he said later - from Chris Bosh and James. No whistle, game over.
"We did everything wrong to lose the game," Wizards Coach Flip Saunders said, "and they did everything right."
The Wizards were in position to stage an improbable victory thanks largely to a team-high 30 points from Nick Young, who was elevated to starting shooting guard with Arenas gone to Orlando in exchange for Rashard Lewis. Forward Andray Blatche added 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Hinrich had 13 points and 12 assists, although he missed 12 of 16 shots.
Washington's inspired performance, particularly on defense, was not enough to overcome a game-high 32 points by James, who was 11 of 12 from the foul line, and 20 points each by Wade and Bosh. They were the only players on Miami to reach double figures.
"We played our [butts] off," Saunders said. "We played hard. I mean that's how we have to play. We played hard. We executed. We got shots that we wanted."
Washington (6-19), which extended its season-high losing streak to seven, had led for just about all of the fourth quarter after it scored six straight points in the opening minutes of the period for an 80-72 advantage. The Heat (21-8) never let it get more unmanageable, however, and closed to 91-89 on a three-point from Bosh with 28 seconds to play.
Josh Howard, playing his first game for the Wizards since ACL surgery in February, made 1 of 2 foul shots, got the rebound off his missed free throw and then quickly went back to the line after getting fouled. He again made 1 of 2, this time for a 93-89 lead with 18 seconds to play, but Blatche fouled Bosh on a three-point attempt. Bosh made 2 of 3, and on the ensuing inbounds pass, Young was unable to control the ball, turned it over and fouled James Jones, who made both free throws to tie with 13 seconds remaining.
Hinrich was fouled immediately thereafter and made 1 of 2 with 12 seconds to play before Wade drove into the lane, where he drew contact from Blatche and went to the line for what would be the decisive points.
"We made a lot of mistakes down the stretch," Hinrich said. "I mean we were up [four] with 18 seconds. We foul a three-point shooter, turn it over trying to get it inbounds. Miss some free throws. I mean, it's bad stuff."