Andre Miller could have hesitated before rearing back for a full-court pass to Bradley Beal in the second quarter of Monday’s game against Miami. And on most nights, the sight of four Heat defenders scattered along the narrow, 90-foot passing lane probably would have deterred the veteran Washington Wizards guard.
Instead, Miller’s pass fell perfectly into the hands of Beal for a layup, serving as one highlight among many on a night when risk was met with reward, confidence yielded consistency and the Wizards blew out the two-time defending champions at Verizon Center, 114-93.
The Wizards shot 59 percent from the floor, made 14 three-pointers and boasted five double-digit scorers, led by Trevor Ariza with 25 points. Sure, Miami (54-27) elected to rest LeBron James and Chris Bosh in preparation for the playoffs, but with Washington mirroring the type of play that knocked off a fully loaded Heat team in January, not even the greatest player on the planet may have been able to slow the Wizards.
“We’ve seen enough of these games where they haven’t played some of their guys and we lost,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “So anytime you can get out and play the way we did from an offensive standpoint moving forward, it can’t hurt you.”
This holds especially true when considering Washington (43-38) could still face Miami in the first round of the playoffs. With Charlotte’s last-second win against Atlanta keeping the Bobcats just a game behind the Wizards for the No. 6 seed, Washington needs either a win against Boston or a Charlotte loss to Chicago on Wednesday to avoid facing the Heat, which clinched the No. 2 spot with Monday’s loss.
“We planning on winning [Wednesday], anyway,” Wizards forward Al Harrington said. “We don’t have the luxury of resting guys. This is our first time at the dance, so we have to go in feeling as good as possible and have as much momentum as we can. Whether [Charlotte] won or lost, whatever, we was trying to win the game on Wednesday.”
Producing an effort like Monday’s would go a long way in accomplishing that for the Wizards, who have their first three-game win streak in more than a month. After being mired in a recent slump from three-point territory, Ariza paced the Wizards on a clip that’s made them one of the NBA’s best teams from long range, knocking down two of his five threes in the first quarter.
As Washington’s shooting stretched out Miami’s defense, Nene used the extra interior space to tally 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting off the bench. Consecutive three-point plays by Nene on power moves to the basket punctuated a 13-1 second-quarter run that put the Wizards up for good at 42-32. Nene’s 25 minutes of court action marked his highest total since returning four games ago from a knee injury that sidelined him for six weeks.
Harrington extended the offensive barrage, draining two of his four three-pointers during a second quarter in which the Wizards scored 43 points on 15-for-16 shooting.
The only Wizard not to score in the first half? John Wall, who attempted just two field goals but had eight of his game-high 13 assists. Wall’s first bucket didn’t come until the 6-minute 13-second mark of the third quarter.
“I knew it was the kind of game where I knew I didn’t have to score as much,” said Wall, who finished with four points. “It was just great to get those guys going and let them make shots and build their confidence up because some of the guys had been in a slump lately.”
Ariza, who had been dogged of late by shooting woes and the flu, continued to shake off both in the third quarter with two more three-pointers as Washington extended its lead to 36 points. Meantime, Monday brought more of the same from Harrington, as he hit his first four baskets, using a feathery touch to score 16 points and notch his third straight double-digit effort off the bench.
The Wizards’ concerted effort not only resulted in 36 assists but also helped them clamp down defensively on the lone member of Miami’s Big Three in uniform, holding Dwyane Wade to just nine points and forcing him into four turnovers in 18 minutes of play.