It was a clean sweep for Washington D.C. pro teams playing Saturday. The Capitals had the biggest win of the day, beating the Bruins in Boston and taking a 3-2 lead in the first round best of seven series. The Nationals defeated the Miami Marlins 3-2 in 10 innings behind six scoreless frames from starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Finally, the Wizards went down to Florida and beat the other Miami team, the Heat, 86-84 on a last-second layup by Nene off a beautiful dish by John Wall. The win improves Washington's record to 17-46. Following wins over the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks, the Wizards have now won three games in a row for the first time this season. They have also won 5 of their last 7 games and appear to be finishing the season well.
Trying to get healthy for the upcoming playoffs, the Heat elected to sit LeBron James tonight and forward Chris Bosh was in street clothes battling injuries. The team's sole remaining star, Dwyane Wade, did start the game, but left for the locker room less than three minutes into the first quarter with a dislocated finger, apparently suffered when he got his hand stuck in the jersey of Wizards rookie forward Chris Singleton, and never returned. With James, Wade and Bosh all out of the game, the Heat struggled to find their offense. The Heat scored only 15 points in the first quarter, only 37 in the first half and were plagued by turnovers the entire game.
However, the Wizards struggled to take advantage of Miami's health problems because of their own poor shooting and inability to control the glass. [Miami, led by Udonis Haslem, out-rebounded the Wizards 46-38.] It was a rough shooting night for Jordan Crawford [2-14] and Jan Vesely [3-9], and Crawford appeared to be suffering more from his recent ankle injury. Washington also dealt with foul trouble, as their two big men, Nene and Kevin Seraphin, both racked up five fouls and the team had 25 called against it. The Wizards managed to maintain a modest lead for most of the game thanks to the hot outside shooting of Cartier Martin, who scored a career-high 22 points off the bench. When Crawford threw up a heave from half court less than one second before the first half expired and the ball went through the basket to give Washington an 8-point lead, it seemed the Wizards would have the momentum heading into the second half.
That's how it seemed at first. The Wizards built a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter, but James Jones got hot, hitting back-to-back three pointers and scoring nine points during a 19-6 Heat run to finish the third. Washington's lead was cut to one point. On the first possession of the fourth quarter, the Heat, aided by two offensive rebounds, took a one point lead on Mike Miller's put back. However, Cartier Martin promptly took the lead back for Washington with a 3-pointer. Miller immediately came back and answered with his own three pointer to put the Heat back up by one point. A minute later, Miller got open again when Mo Evans lost him and the former Wizard burned his old team again with another 3-pointer. It was Miller's 16 points and 10 rebounds that repeatedly prevented the Wizards from taking control of the game and when the former Wizard got hot in the early part of the fourth quarter, it seemed the game was about to slip away from a young and impressionable team.
However, it didn't happen. John Wall briefly took over the game, getting a steal, scoring a layup and racking up three assists in about 90 seconds early in the fourth period, as the Wizards began to fight back. [Wall's jumper, though, continued to look awful and he couldn't buy a bucket from outside the paint.] Wall had been playing tough defense all night long and now he added some clutch passing, as he fed Martin, Nene and Kevin Seraphin [17 points] for easy buckets. Whenever Wall didn't trust his horrendous jump shot, he seemed to do something good to help the team score and win in the fourth quarter of this game. The game see-sawed back and forth until Washington had a two point lead, 84-82, and possession with under 15 seconds in regulation. That's when things got complicated again.
Crawford took a pass from Wall, dribbled on the perimeter for a moment and then drove toward the paint, looking to pass. He never got the chance. Mike Miller clearly pushed Crawford to the floor, who immediately turned the ball over. No foul was called and Mario Chalmers drove to the hoop for a layup, but missed. However, Haslem was running the floor as a trailer and he grabbed Chalmers' miss as it popped off the rim and slammed it back down to tie the game at 84.
John Wall took a pass from Nene at the top of the three point line and drove around him to the left, while Nene swung around and moved toward the basket on the right side of the hoop. Wall's speed drew the defense and the guard dished expertly to Nene under the hoop, who laid the ball off the glass for an 86-84 lead with 0.5 seconds left. The Heat tried to get Miller a good look at a 3-pointer to win the game, but he couldn't get the shot off in time and the shot missed off the back rim anyway. The Wizards had their third straight win for the first time all season.
All in all, this was a nice win. The Heat had none of their really good players, but the guys they did have are mostly seasoned veterans. Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers, Shane Battier -- those guys have won a lot of games over the years. Once they came back from the big deficit and took a lead, the crowd was really into it. The Wizards looked like they'd just quit. Didn't happen. They didn't beat a good team tonight, but they got a road win and it wasn't easy. Their leading scorer looked injured and was basically no help. They got almost nothing from their two starting forwards. So essentially no real contributions from three starters. But they won anyway and ran a beautiful play on the game-winning bucket. It's nothing to crow about for a good team, but for the Wizards, who have been an awful team for most of the season, it is a sign, perhaps, of their recent growth and improvement.
The Wizards next host the NBA-worst Charlotte Bobcats on Monday and then travel to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers. They finish the season at home against the Heat.
WIZARDS PLAYER OF THE GAME
John Wall: 13 points, 6-11 shooting, 6 rebounds, 13 assists, 4 steals, +11 court ratioHighlights of the game follow...