MIAMI — The FTX Arena crowd was on its feet and singing to the guaracha music blasting over the speaker system Friday night, tryptophan be dammed. This city never needs a reason to party, but center Bam Adebayo had given it one anyway with a go-ahead field goal with 21 seconds to play against the Washington Wizards.
Adebayo’s picturesque rolling layup helped clinch the Heat’s 110-107 victory, its second over the Wizards in the past three days. It was another heartbreaking loss for the Wizards, who played their hardest, most cohesive game since perhaps a Nov. 10 win against the Dallas Mavericks. And yet they still could not crack the Heat.
Adebayo’s season-high 38 points had a lot to do with that. Washington (11-8) had weathered his fantastic performance until it simply couldn’t anymore; the center trucked ahead steadily as individual Wizards players ebbed and flowed.
“It was just coming down and getting stops,” Bradley Beal said. “We did enough throughout the course of the game to put ourselves in position to win. . . . Just a matter of us getting stops on the defensive end."
Washington had 23 second-chance points, evidence of its scrambling effort. But the three-pointer the visitors needed on their final possession — a step-back attempt from Beal as time expired — found only iron.
Beal, back after missing Wednesday’s game with a thigh contusion, and Kyle Kuzma paced the Wizards with 28 points apiece. Kristaps Porzingis finished with 18.
Kuzma added seven rebounds and five assists. Beal had five rebounds and five assists, and Deni Avdija, playing most of 31 minutes at the point, had eight points, nine rebounds and five assists.
A well-rounded stat line from Kuzma, Beal and Avdija exemplified what the Wizards did so well when they were clicking Friday night, scrambling for rebounds, switching well on defense and finding teammates in position to score. They forced Adebayo into far more jumpers than he likes to take, but the center simply made them.
“I don’t remember when he played like this,” Porzingis said of Adebayo. “I think that was their game plan, to use him more, put him in all the actions. They wanted him to be aggressive in the beginning, and he did that, and it worked well for him. They’re so good, like Kyle Lowry? He will finds [Adebayo] every time in that pocket, and it’s hard to stop him, very experienced — with [Tyler Herro] again, he maybe didn’t shoot the ball well, but he was making plays for Bam, for the rest of the guys. Those are solid, solid players.”
The Wizards and Heat must have been sick of each other by the time Friday rolled around. They met for the third time in the span of a week — the past two at FTX Arena. This one had the same tint as the previous two. Both sides were missing key players — four for Miami in Jimmy Butler (knee), Max Strus (shoulder), Duncan Robinson (ankle) and Omer Yurtseven (ankle) — and three for Washington in Monte Morris (ankle), Rui Hachimura (ankle) and Johnny Davis (groin), in addition to long-sidelined Delon Wright (hamstring).
Neither could sustain a high level of energy the entire game as a result, so they danced again and came up with a tight fourth quarter. Back and forth they went before Adebayo had the final say.
The Wizards had one of their strongest starts recently, slinging the ball with precision and shooting well enough to absorb 18 points from Adebayo in the first quarter to produce a 38-28 lead. They looked energized across the roster by their biting loss Wednesday in the same building.
It was the third quarter, as is so often the case for Washington, that tilted momentum. Miami did a solid job on defense containing everyone but Beal, who shouldered the load with 14 points in the stretch, while getting contributions from a wide swath on the offensive end.
“When we’re playing teams that are undermanned or teams that are just scrappy, we have to be much more physical. We have to play harder, quarter to quarter. Got a taste for 2-3 zone. Play them again one more time,” Kuzma said.
Washington will have to wait until April, in the penultimate game of the regular season, to exact revenge.
Here’s what else to know about the Wizards’ loss:
The Wizards ran a one in, one out policy Friday — as Beal came off the injury report, Davis was added. The rookie guard sat out with groin soreness after injuring himself on an awkward landing in Wednesday’s game against the Heat, Coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.
Starting point guard Morris (ankle soreness) and backup forward Hachimura (ankle soreness) both missed their third consecutive games but are progressing, according to Unseld — both participated in the team’s optional Thanksgiving Day workout.
Unseld said Morris’s right ankle is something the team probably will monitor throughout the season.
“He’s had some issues in the past. It’s just been more managing,” Unseld said at Friday morning’s shoot-around. “It flared up a bit, so we’re trying to get that to calm down, get the strength and mobility back. It’s something he’s going to have to deal with throughout the season.”
Heat goes cold
It helped Washington that, unlike Wednesday night when Miami tied a season high with 16 three-pointers, the Heat made just 2 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc in the first half Friday and 7 for 26 for the game. Part of that was the Wizards’ more active perimeter defense forcing Miami into worse shots and part of it was the Heat just plain missing.