Wizards 95, Heat 65
The elements were in place -- a hard-fought emotional victory Thursday and a bad team on tap -- for a less-than-focused effort from the Washington Wizards.
Those trappings never came in to play, though, as the tuned-in Wizards did a number on the Miami Heat in the first half and showed no mercy over the final two quarters to cruise to a 95-65 victory last night before a sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.
The victory was Washington's fifth in six games and improved its record to 6-4 -- its best 10-game start since 1975. Talent-sapped and injury-riddled Miami fell to 1-7, and its 65 points were the fewest ever by an opponent of the Baltimore-Washington franchise.
"I wanted to jump on them, I didn't want to give them any life," Wizards Coach Doug Collins said, claiming he figured Miami probably was fatigued after playing New Jersey on Friday night. "I said, 'Let's get them down early. . . . Let's not give them any hope.' "
The Wizards followed those marching orders to a T, taking double-digit leads in the first quarter and never allowing Miami, which shot 33 percent, to get closer than 14 the rest of the way.
The blowout allowed the Wizards to spread out playing time, which provided welcome relief to some of the veterans, who probably will see significant action tonight when Washington travels to Philadelphia to play the 76ers.
Guard Jerry Stackhouse had a team-high 16 points and a game-high 10 assists in 34 minutes. Forward Kwame Brown, who was coming off two single-digit scoring games, added 15 points and registered game-highs in rebounds (11) and steals (three).
"He was aggressive, he was running the floor, he was getting shots," Collins said of Brown.
Wizards guard Michael Jordan, who played his 1,000th game, scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds in a season-low 19 minutes. He played a season-high 34 minutes in Washington's three-point victory over the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
Point guard Larry Hughes scored 14 points and had a game-high seven assists. His backup, Tyronn Lue, added nine points and was the catalyst in a dunk-fest of a second quarter when he spoon fed Brown some dunk-friendly passes that Brown finished emphatically to give Washington an insurmountable lead.
"Tyronn hit me with a good dime and that opened it up," Brown said of an alley-oop play he and Lue orchestrated at the start of the second quarter that put Washington up 32-16. "Then everybody started running because they wanted to get one."
Everybody on the Wizards also played some serious defense. Washington limited Miami to 33 second-half points and never allowed it to score more than 19 points in a quarter. Malik Allen led the Heat with 14 points.
"That was a bad, bad, bad game," Heat Coach Pat Riley said.
The Wizards opened the third quarter with a 27-point lead and, for the first time, less than high energy. The Heat scored the first seven points of the half, prompting Collins to call a quick timeout to get his team's attention. He'd seen his team blow big leads before and did not want to see it happen again.
What he said -- he told them to regain the energy they played with in the first half -- worked. Washington outscored the Heat 22-12 the rest of the quarter to go into the fourth quarter up 81-51.
"The one thing I try to make our guys understand in don't ever look at the score," Collins said. "Play to get better every time on the floor and that's hard to do sometimes."
From there, the only question -- at least to the crowd that called for him -- was when former Maryland guard Juan Dixon, who came in with 28 seconds left in the first half, would be reinserted. He was sent in with 10:25 remaining. He finished with four points, his final pair on a transition layup, in 11 minutes.
The halftime score left little to be said about what transpired: Washington 59, Miami 32. The Heat's point total -- one less than the Wizards' total for the second quarter -- was an opponent low in the first half this season. Washington's tally was the most it has scored in any half this season.
The Wizards made 22 of 33 shots (67 percent) and put on a spectacular dunk show in the process.
"We talked about just like when we beat the Lakers and had to play Cleveland; we didn't want to have a good win and throw it away with a loss," Hughes said. "We came out aggressive and did our work early."
The Wizards blasted to an easy 28-14 first-quarter lead, playing with narrowed focus and high energy, and had the Heat walking off the court at the end of the period looking defeated. Typically, Riley-coached teams don't go out easily, but that was not the case this time.
Wizards Note: Students and faculty from Tasker Middle School in Bowie, where an eighth-grade student was a victim of the sniper shootings, attended tonight's game. Shortly after the shooting, Wizards rookies Dixon and Jared Jeffries spoke at an assembly at the school.