With the Wizards down by one point with 10.2 seconds left, backup point guard Reggie Jordan, a defensive substitution, had just made a key steal and was credited with a layup after a goaltending call. After being fouled by Miami forward P.J. Brown, he stood at the foul line to attempt his first free throw of the season.
The failure to make that free throw led to Miami making two more foul shots and the Heat escaped with an 89-86 victory tonight before 14,621 at Miami Arena.
"All I was thinking was, 'Hit it,' " said Jordan, a career 59 percent foul shooter. "I was praying for it to go in, I wasn't thinking about whether it was my first or not. . . . It didn't go down."
Heat forward Dan Majerle made one of two free throws after corralling Jordan's miss, giving the Wizards another chance with 8.1 seconds left. Inbounding the ball from half court, they set up a play for point guard Rod Strickland to drive toward the basket and pass the ball to an open player.
Strickland took the shot himself, missing a 15-footer from the left baseline. It was Strickland's seventh miss on eight attempts. Strickland said Miami shooting guard Voshon Lenard fouled him.
Heat center Alonzo Mourning made the first but missed the second of two free throws to give Miami a three-point lead. Washington had one last chance to score a three-pointer with seven-tenths of a second left.
After another inbounds play from halfcourt, Strickland put up a desperation three-point attempt from the right wing as he appeared to get pushed out of bounds by Heat point guard Anthony Carter. However, no call was made.
"That was more obvious than the other one, for sure," Strickland said.
Regardless, both teams had numerous opportunities to win decisively, especially the Wizards. But forward Juwan Howard missed three of four free throws in the final five minutes and guard Mitch Richmond, who led the Wizards with 20 points in his first start in six games, lost possession of the ball with the Wizards down 87-84 with 1 minute 10 seconds left.
"Missed free throws hurt us, a few defensive stops here and there hurt us, our execution down the stretch wasn't perfect," said Howard, who scored 13 points and grabbed two rebounds. "They don't have a column for moral victories. There's just win and loss columns and this counts as an 'L'."
Center Ike Austin had 12 points and five rebounds and forward Michael Smith had 10 points and six rebounds. Strickland finished with four points on 1-of-9 shooting and four assists.
Mourning scored a game-high 30 points, and forward Jamal Mashburn had 16 points, all in the first half. Forward P.J. Brown had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Miami.
The Wizards' second straight loss dropped them to 4-10. Miami, which leads the Atlantic Division, improved to 10-3 while beating Washington for the fifth straight time.
Coming off a 118-85 loss at Charlotte, the Wizards took some solace in the fact that they competed with one of the league's best teams and didn't allow Miami to put together any extensive runs. The Heat led by 12 in the second quarter but the Wizards never fell behind by more than seven in the second half.
"This team showed some character, but we've got to start getting some wins," Wizards Coach Gar Heard said.
Heard decided to start Richmond because he has overcome knee and hamstring injuries and because rookie Richard Hamilton has been ineffective defensively.
The Heat started Carter, a rookie, at point guard because second-team all-NBA guard Tim Hardaway was nursing a jammed right knee. Carter committed four turnovers, most of which were caused by Strickland, who had a season-high five steals.
With the score tied at 71, Miami went on an 8-2 run to extend its lead to six. Washington answered with four consecutive points to pull to 79-77 after Strickland's layup. Mourning's running layup and ensuing free throw gave Miami a 82-77 lead.
The tide swung in the Heat's favor but Washington failed to buckle. Richmond scored on a driving layup, then made a steal and dish to Smith, whose dunk pulled the Wizards to 82-81.
After Mourning and Howard missed mid-range jumpers, Lenard scored on a layup to put the Heat up by four. Smith answered with two clutch foul shots. With the suspense peaking and the game winding down, Majerle buried a three-pointer from the top of the key to give Miami an 87-83 lead but a foul shot by Howard and a goaltending call brought Washington within one.
The Wizards used a 17-6 run to close the third period and take a 67-65 lead into the fourth quarter. Aaron Williams's free throws gave Washington its first lead at 63-62 with 3:01 left in the third.
Unlike its recent spell of miserable second-quarter performances--the Wizards scored just eight points in the second quarter against the Hornets on Friday night--Washington outscored Miami 22-18 in the second period to go into halftime down 48-44.
"It's all about executing," Richmond said. "It's very frustrating. We had an opportunity to win. We kept it close throughout the game. We kept fighting back and we had opportunities to take advantage but we couldn't connect."
CAPTION: Washington's Jahidi White and Miami's Rodney Buford battle for rebound in Heat's 89-86 win over the Wizards. White finished with four points.