John Wall measured his defender, the Miami Heat’s flat-topped Norris Cole, and inside-out dribbled to his left, leaving Cole behind. With the first half of the Washington Wizards’ shooting barrage nearing its conclusion, Wall used the sliver of space to confidently hoist a step-back jumper from above the elbow.
It was a difficult shot. But that did not matter on this night. The horn sounded as the ball arced and swished through the nylon to punctuate the Wizards’ Wall-led first-half destruction of the Heat in a thorough 107-86 trouncing of their Southeast Division foe Monday night at Verizon Center.
“For 48 minutes,” Coach Randy Wittman said, “probably our best game from start to finish.”
Wall headed the thrashing with perhaps his finest performance of the young season. By halftime he had already posted his ninth double-double of the season. By game’s end he registered 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 13 assists to two turnovers, five rebounds and a block in 32 minutes.
“He was tremendous. For us to be successful, he doesn’t have to score 30,” said Marcin Gortat, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double. “He got the ball in his hands so many times that he can go for 30 any night, but that’s not the point. He’s got to create for everybody else and he did a tremendous, tremendous job today.”
The swift fifth-year point guard controlled the game with measured pace and patience. He didn’t force shots and found open teammates off his dribble penetration, picking a helpless Heat defense apart. His 13 assists were more than the Heat’s entire total and fueled the Wizards’ fluid ball movement. Washington had 29 assists in all, leaving just 10 field goals unassisted, to 12 turnovers.
“We didn’t care about who was getting the shots,” Wall said. “We were just moving the ball and we did a great job of making open shots and making the right plays.”
The Wizards (11-5) delivered the drubbing without Nene, who missed his fourth straight game Monday because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The power forward was also missing when the Wizards and Heat met in Miami on Oct. 29 in the season opener, a double-digit Heat victory, but that was one of the only similarities between the two meetings.
Kris Humphries, who started in Nene’s place Monday, had not played in a live game in three weeks before the opener, and Bradley Beal did not suit up in the loss because of a fractured left wrist.
Beal was in the starting lineup Monday for the third time this season, but his presence wasn’t necessary. The shooting guard committed two fouls in the game’s first four minutes and played just 17 minutes because of foul trouble, so Rasual Butler, the NBA’s third-most accurate three-point shooter, stepped in seamlessly and continued his torrid pace.
A training camp invitee, Butler scored a season-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting. He drained 3 of 5 three-pointers and, never mistaken for a high flyer, he went over Chris Bosh for a one-handed dunk that drew a foul.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Butler said. “I understood that [Beal] was out of the game early, so I felt like coming to the game a little earlier, I needed to be aggressive for us. John talked to me about being aggressive when I came into the game.”
Butler’s seven points in the first quarter sparked a blistering start for the Wizards as the Heat, who never led, foundered from the tip. Without much resistance from the NBA’s 21st-ranked defense, the Wizards shot 63.2 percent from the field, won the rebound battle 21-13, and committed just four turnovers en route to a season-high 64 first-half points and a commanding 15-point advantage at intermission, capped by Wall’s exclamation point.
The Heat (9-8) usually rely on three-pointers to sustain an offensive pulse, but Miami missed its first eight three-point attempts, went 0 of 12 from three in the second half, and made just 2 of 22 threes total while the Wizards made their first seven from beyond the arc.
Bosh accumulated 21 points, and his fellow all-star Dwyane Wade finished with 20, but their supporting cast was outgunned and the Wizards clamped down defensively in the second half, limiting the Heat to 37 points and 32.4 percent shooting.
Much of the second-half lockdown came with Washington’s reserves on the floor.
“Nobody cares who gets the credit,” forward Paul Pierce said. “That’s a real team right there, and that’s what you’re seeing over here with the Washington Wizards.”