MIAMI — As the Washington Wizards sought a season-high third straight win, they faced an opponent that ticked the right boxes.
Before Monday night, the Miami Heat had lost five straight games. Its home record ranked as the worst in the NBA. And for yet another game, the Heat played without two starting-caliber players in Dion Waiters and Justise Winslow.
Even so, the Wizards could not exploit these weaknesses and once again revealed their own during a 112-101 loss at American Airlines Arena.
“We’re trying to get on a roll, we’re trying to get into a groove, trying to get into a consistent flow, and all L’s aren’t pretty — especially to a team that doesn’t have its full force,” Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said. “So I would say this could be a little step back [for us].”
With almost three minutes to play, Dragic hit a leaning, off-the-glass floater to give Miami a seven-point lead. Then, after the two-minute mark, Dragic danced around the perimeter before knocking down another back-breaking jumper. The Wizards, who sent different defenders his way, could not corral Dragic as he finished with 34 points, his most as a member of the Heat.
“He’s definitely a handful,” Wizards Coach Scott Brooks said. “He had a hot hand throughout the game. First half, he had a good game going. We tried to go small, we tried to go big and we switched a lot, and he was just in attack mode and he was making his jump shots.”
Overall, Washington had no defensive answer. The Wizards (9-14) have now lost twice to the Heat (8-17), allowing Miami its two highest single-game point totals of the season.
“We’re definitely frustrated because we feel like we should’ve won this game,” Beal said. “But the year goes on.”
Indeed, the season drags on without a steady winning streak or consistent defense.
In the first half, Miami center Hassan Whiteside controlled more rebounds (nine) than the Wizards’ three starting frontcourt players (seven). The rebounding edge created 11 second-chance points, but the Heat wasn’t limited to just cleaning up misses. Miami concluded the half with a barrage of three-pointers from Dragic, Rodney McGruder and Wayne Ellington. While Wall and Beal carried the offensive load for Washington — combining for 33 of the team’s 53 points — Miami erased an eight-point lead to take a 59-53 advantage heading into halftime.
Washington might have relied too much on Wall and Beal, but Miami also had dependence issues. Less than 90 seconds into the third quarter, Dragic picked up his fourth foul and had to take a seat. Without Dragic to worry about, the Wizards mounted a comeback on a 13-2 scoring run. Closing the quarter with a heavy helping of Wall and Otto Porter Jr., who made a spot-up jumper beyond the arc and then a cutting layup and three-point play, Washington led by one. But Dragic returned in the fourth quarter, and so did the Wizards’ problems.
“We’re going to get good shots,” Porter said. “But we want to pride ourselves on defense.”
In the fourth quarter, Dragic dismantled Washington’s defense while scoring 13 points. Whiteside did damage in the paint with 17 points and 16 rebounds for the game. As a team, Miami dominated the glass with a 47-36 rebounding margin. And for the second time this season, the Heat — just a shadow of its championship-caliber former self — proved too much for the Wizards.
“Obviously, we came up short twice [to Miami],” Oubre said. “It’s that effort that they bring. It’s very respectable.”