The Washington Wizards shrugged off the absence of three frontcourt players to defeat the Miami Heat 114-103 on Monday at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Describing how the Wizards had dismantled what had been the NBA’s No 1 defense in terms of lowest shooting percentage allowed, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: “Speed, speed, smaller line-up, smaller line-up, more speed.
“It felt like they were going downhill most of the game, and we couldn’t get them to flatten out.”
The Wizards were without centre Marcin Gortat, who was back in Poland with his sick mother, and forwards Nene and Drew Gooden, who both have calf injuries.
In addition, three Wizards played hurt – John Wall (knee), Gary Neal (groin) and Kris Humphries (ankle).
Wall and Neal, though, did not look hurt.
Wall had 26 points and seven assists, and Neal contributed 21 points off the bench.
“John is one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said of Wall.
“It takes a lot for him to miss a game. If you remember last year in the playoffs, it took five broken bones in his hand before he was going to sit out a game.”
Neal, who signed with the Wizards in July, fell just two points off his season high.
“Gary was big off the bench,” Wittman said. “He was probably the most consistent guy we had throughout the game.”
Bradley Beal scored 21 points and had perhaps the game’s biggest play. With 1:59 left in the game and the score tied 103-103, Beal stole the ball at midcourt from Heat guard Dwyane Wade and drove in for a dunk.
Neal then added a three-pointer and a layup to put Washington up 110-103 with 34.9 seconds left.
Wade had 26 points and nine assists, and Goran Dragic had a season-high 20 points and nine assists.
“We played a bad game,” Wade said. “It wasn’t about the offensive end. We gave up 114 points. It was all about the defensive end of the floor.”
True to Wade’s point, Miami lost despite shooting 59.4 percent from the floor. But the Heat allowed Washington to shoot 50 percent overall and nine of 18 three-pointers.
Miami received 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists from Chris Bosh, who was upset with the officiating and was ejected in the final minute.
The Wizards (9-10) also got 13 points and a career-high 14 rebounds from Otto Porter. Eight of his rebounds came in the first quarter.
Miami (12-7) concluded a disappointing 2-2 homestand and have not managed a three-game win streak since March 2014.
The Wizards, who led by as many as 14 points in the first half, took a 29-19 lead after the opening quarter.
“Right from the start,” Spoelstra said, “they had us on our heels, driving and kicking. We couldn’t get them to play uphill. They really attacked the paint like we haven’t been attacked all year.”
Miami cut the deficit to 60-55 at halftime. The Heat’s 36 points in the second quarter was Miami’s best offensive period of the season.
Miami led by as many as seven in the third quarter before the Wizards rallied to take an 87-84 advantage into the fourth.