The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Wizards dig themselves a 21-point hole, come up short in loss to Heat

The Wizards' Deni Avdija grabs a rebound over Miami's Tyler Herro and forward Caleb Martin during the second half of Wednesday's game. (Jim Rassol/AP)

MIAMI — Tyler Herro lived up to his name Wednesday night in the eyes of a loud Miami crowd home for the holidays. To the Washington Wizards, he was nothing more than a villain, there to spoil what could have been a storybook ending by sealing a 113-105 Heat win that was more tightly contested than the score indicated.

Washington was without starting guard Bradley Beal (thigh contusion), starting point guard Monte Morris (ankle soreness) and backup forward Rui Hachimura (ankle soreness). Given their shorthanded roster, it was predictable that the Wizards fell into a 21-point deficit.

Less expected was their impressive comeback to make it a three-point game with less than four minutes to play.

But Herro, in his first game back from an ankle sprain that sidelined him since Nov. 4, rattled off four three-pointers in the fourth quarter to help lift the Heat.

“This one stings. This one stings,” Kristaps Porzingis said while clapping his hands together, as passionate as the affable center has been since joining the Wizards. “ … Each game is different. It’s hard to play against them. We played against them when they had nobody — not nobody, but they didn’t have any guys, and they almost still beat us with that weird zone [defense], uncomfortable, free throw line shots that they’re giving us. Tonight, most of the same thing.”

The Heat was missing nine players when the teams met less than a week ago, including Herro and Bam Adebayo, who sat out with a knee contusion.

On Wednesday, Herro’s three-pointers were part of an exceptional night from beyond the arc for Miami, which made up for just five missing rotation players this time around — including Jimmy Butler (knee), Duncan Robinson (ankle) and Max Strus (shoulder) — by matching a season high with 16 three-pointers. Point guard Kyle Lowry started the night hitting 5 of 5 three-point attempts; Herro provided the bookend. The teams play again in Miami on Friday.

The Wizards struggled on offense and never got in a real rhythm defensively as a result. Kyle Kuzma led the Wizards with 33 points and seven rebounds. Porzingis added 21 points and nine rebounds.

Lowry had 28 and six rebounds and Caleb Martin added 24 points. Herro added 17.

“I thought we got outworked in that first half,” Wizards Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “And the difference in our purpose, a little more grit, toughness in that second half changed the game.”

The Heat (8-11) posted a monster of a second quarter in which it outscored the Wizards 32-17 and took control by owning the boards 21-9. That led to seven fast break points and a weary-looking Washington defense, especially under the rim. Adebayo shot five free throws thanks to bouts of desperate, tired guarding.

But the Wizards (10-8) regrouped after halftime and came out with new energy — and Adebayo and Lowry emerged deflated. The Heat’s dynamic big man had just one field goal in the third quarter, Lowry didn’t score at all, and Porzingis took advantage of his newfound freedom without Adebayo to score 13 points, making two three-pointers.

Washington whittled Miami’s lead to three entering the fourth quarter, but the Wizards’ perimeter defense broke down in the final 12 minutes.

Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss::

Wizards missing three

Beal, Monte Morris and Hachimura all participated in the shoot-around Wednesday morning and were game-time decisions. Unseld said after the game he is hopeful the trio will be available Friday; they received treatment up until game time in an effort to make tip-off.

This is the sixth game of the season Beal has missed because of injury or illness — he recently recovered from covid-19 — and he has not played in Miami since Nov. 18, 2021. He missed Washington’s second visit here last season because he was in the league’s health and safety protocols after testing positive.

Morris and Hachimura each missed their second game of the season.

Goodwin earns first start

With Morris and Beal out, two-way player Jordan Goodwin earned his first NBA start filling in at point guard. The 24-year-old had a subpar night by his own standards and certainly wasn’t as productive as the Wizards needed in the starting lineup. He had eight points, three assists, one steal and one rebound, even ceding his spot in the game-closing group to backup Will Barton.

Barton comes up big

Barton, a backup wing, said last week he was still feeling things out with the Wizards after his role shifted from that of a starter in Denver to a reserve in Washington. As a starter, he knew almost exactly how many minutes he could expect to play each night and at what point in the quarter.

He made the most of his time in the second unit Wednesday, turning in one of his best performances of the month with 13 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in taking charge of an otherwise lackluster group.

Avdija at the point

Deni Avdija did well bringing the ball up Wednesday, dishing 10 assists and scoring 12 points. He added nine rebounds.