For most of three quarters on Friday, the Washington Wizards played with enough ambition and resolve that on other nights may have been sufficient to produce a victory.
The opponent in this case, though, was reigning Eastern Conference champion Miami, so an incomplete performance instead yielded a 106-89 loss before a Verizon Center crowd of 20,282 that booed the Heat’s LeBron James at virtually every turn.
The Wizards (5-22), who suffered their sixth loss in seven games, got double-figure scoring from four starters, including a season-high 24 points and 13 rebounds from center JaVale McGee. But Washington shot 38 percent from the field and 19 percent from three-point range and missed 11 of 28 foul shots.
“They’re a great defensive team,” Wall said. “That’s why they were in the Finals. They just stopped us down the stretch, and they made plays. We couldn’t get it going offensively, turned the ball over, shot clock violation, taking bad shots, and they just increased their lead.”
Ahead by seven points to start the fourth quarter, Miami (20-7) used a 9-1 surge for an 83-68 buffer with 9 minutes 51 seconds to play. Washington whittled the margin to 91-80 on Young’s three-pointer, but the Heat countered with a 10-1 flurry capped by Shane Battier’s three-pointer for a 101-81 lead with 4:04 left that all but settled the outcome.
Dwyane Wade led Miami with a game-high 26 points on 11-for-18 shooting, and Chris Bosh had 24 points and 11 rebounds. James, meantime, had 18 mostly uneventful points along with nine assists, two rebounds and two blocks. He shot 6 for 14 and missed both of his three-point attempts.
“Oh yeah, we fought hard tonight, but they’re a great team with great players,” Young said. “They pulled it off.”
In the third quarter, the Heat appeared ready to put away the game by three times taking a lead of 12 points. But following two Bosh foul shots that gave Miami a 62-50 margin, the Wizards went on an 11-0 run that ended with Booker’s one-handed floater to get within 62-61.
Moments later, Wall sank a jumper following a Miami turnover, and the Wizards again had cut it to one, 64-63, with 3:13 to play in the third. The Heat, however, scored seven of the next nine points for a 72-65 cushion with 1:09 left in the period, which concluded with McGee’s missed dunk.
The third quarter couldn’t have ended soon enough for James, who committed multiple gaffes that allowed Washington to remain reasonably close. Over several minutes, James missed consecutive layups, missed the basket completely on a three-point attempt and kicked the ball out of bounds trying to control a pass.
James’s travails underscored Miami’s seemingly apathetic demeanor throughout the majority of the game. Despite runs of brilliance, Wade also missed his share of layups, and other teammates played disinterested basketball for long stretches.
The Wizards, though, failed to make the Southeast Division leaders regret taking them lightly. Careless plays such as McGee allowing a sure rebound to go off his hands out of bounds in the fourth quarter, when Washington had drawn to 79-68, hurt the Wizards several times.
The first half included some acrobatic sequences from both teams. Wall delivered a pair of alley-oop passes to Booker and McGee for dunks that drew rousing applause from spectators, and James collected a one-handed lob from Wade late in the second quarter for a fast-break slam.
The theatrics continued with roughly a minute and a half to go until intermission when Wade drove to the basket and tossed the ball straight up. James swooped in moments later and dunked to give Miami a 48-38 lead on a night in which the Heat shot 49 percent and made 21 of 23 free throws.
“I can’t fault our guys’ effort,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “Whatever it is, when you’re playing team like Miami, it’s hard to beat a team [shooting] 38 percent, and on top of that we missed what, 11 free throws? But they fought. We were tough.”