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Wizards use defense to beat Heat and win fourth straight game

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Wizards use defense to beat Heat and win fourth straight game

The Washington Wizards beat the Miami Heat 102-93 on Wednesday night at American Airlines Arena.

Here's analysis of what went down...

Defense won this one:

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks and his players often say defense is extra important because it can lead to wins on nights when their offense isn't clicking. On Wednesday night, that is exactly what happened.

Now, the Wizards still managed a respectable 102 points, but they shot just 41 percent and in the third quarter only scored 10. Meanwhile, on defense, the Wizards held the Heat to 93 points and 41.6 percent shooting.

The Wizards have now kept their opponents to less than 100 points in four straight games. That matches their longest such streak since the 2014-15 season.

The Wizards have won all four of those games in what is their longest winning streak of the season so far. It has been a nice response by Washington after their ugly loss to the Mavericks just over a week ago.

One could argue Miami (6-8) is much better than their record. This was among the Wizards' best wins of the season so far. It was one thing to do it against Atlanta and Sacramento, but the Heat could be in the playoffs come April.

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Wall, Keef took off early:

John Wall entered this game banged up, having sprained his ankle in the Wizards' win over the Kings on Monday to go along with a slew of ailments already holding him back. He wasn't hampered by it one bit.

Wall had 16 points in the first half, eight in each of the first two quarters. And just like Monday, Wall caught fire early from three. He hit his first two shots from long range.

Wall's best highlight, though, resulted in a missed shot.

It was this nutmeg of Hassan Whiteside on the fastbreak:

That's just disrespectful.

Wall, though, slowed down a bit in the second half. He finished with 27 points and six assists on 9-for-21 from the field.

Markieff Morris also got off to a hot start. He had 10 points in his first seven minutes including two threes. He ended up with 15 points in 22 minutes before he not only fouled out, but also got ejected with a second technical. Not often you see that, but when you're already out of the game, might as well give the refs an earful.

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Bad third quarter:

The Wizards held a 12-point lead at halftime, but quickly saw things unravel in the third. The Heat outscored the Wizards 25-10 in the frame with the Wizards shooting just 4-for-19 from the field. It was their worst quarter of the season without question. 

Goran Dragic got hot and scored nine points in the third, but this one was all on the Wizards' offense. They couldn't get anything going and it was ugly.

Dragic kept going in the fourth. He took advantage of a mismatch in size against Tim Frazier on several possessions. At one point he posted up Frazier and banked in a turnaround jumper with ease. Dragic ended up with 21 points.

Off-night for Gortat:

Marcin Gortat had a long night dealing with Whiteside down low in this one. While Whiteside had a strong game with 14 points and 21 rebounds, Gortat was held to just two points and five rebounds. He never found a rhythm offensively as the Heat did a good job defending the Wizards' pick-and-roll, which is usually automatic. Gortat finished 0-for-6 from the field.

Gortat was very upset with himself after some recent games where he was outmatched on the boards. He won't be happy with this one, either.

Up next:

The Wizards return home only to see the Heat again. They host Miami on Friday with a 7 p.m. tipoff on NBC Sports Washington.

 

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NBA's last two minute report agrees with referees on strange Wizards-Clippers ending

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NBA's last two minute report agrees with referees on strange Wizards-Clippers ending

Those looking for solace in the NBA's last two minute report from Saturday's Wizards loss to the Clippers were disappointed on Sunday as the league has confirmed the ruling and explanation from the officiating crew.

The Wizards were affected by a mistake made by the clock operator in L.A. With 1.2 seconds left, the clock started early before the Wizards passed the ball inbounds to attempt a game-tying shot. The refs put 1.1 seconds back on the clock, but the Wizards were unsuccessful in their second try. 

As referee Bill Spooner explained following the game on Saturday, the rules dicate the Wizards should have been given 0.1 seconds on the clock instead of 1.1 and that's exactly how the NBA saw things in their last two minute report:

"After communicating with the Replay Center, it is determined that 0.1 seconds ran off the clock prior to the ball being legally touched. Since the basket by Beal (WAS) was scored after he game clock had expired, the Wizards retain possession on the sideline nearest the point of interruption and the game clock is incorrectly reset to 00:01.1 instead of 00:00.1, which is the amount of lost time."

Here is the play in question:

The Wizards were technically screwed by the clock starting early, but in the league's eyes it wasn't as bad as Wizards fans may argue.

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Wizards have been the most consistent NBA team at being inconsistent

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Wizards have been the most consistent NBA team at being inconsistent

The Wizards did something on Saturday in Los Angeles that has been head-scratchingly common for them this season, they lost to an objectively bad team. And, as has become custom, the Wizards led by double-digit points at one juncture and their opponent was missing several key players.

It was a game in which they had no excuse for losing.

"It’s frustrating. It’s a little bit beyond frustrating at this point," guard Bradley Beal said. "Like I just told Tim [Frazier], we should be tired of coming in here and saying ‘on to the next one, on to the next one.’ You run out of games at some point."

Head coach Scott Brooks appears beyond frustrated, as well. After the game he suggested over and over that there were players on his team that didn't show up to play. 

"We need all of our guys ready to play and we didn’t have that this afternoon," he said.

Brooks could have been referring to Kelly Oubre, Jr, or Markieff Morris, who had arguably their worst games of the season, but he wouldn't name names. It doesn't really matter because just about everyone has been a culprit at some point in these letdowns against lesser teams this season.

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The Wizards this season have been the NBA's most enigmatic and least predictable team. They have two very different versions of themselves and what you get appears to heavily depend on who they are playing.

This season the 14-12 Wizards have been markedly worse against losing teams than they have against teams at .500 or with a winning record. Basically, they play well against the good teams and bad against the bad ones. That's the definition of NBA insanity.

In the Eastern Conference, only the Celtics (8-4) and Cavs (7-4) have a better record against teams at .500 above than the Wizards, who are 8-5. That's the positive.

But the Wizards are just 6-7 against teams with losing records. Only the Hawks (5-7) and Bulls (5-9) have been worse in that category among teams in the East and they are terrible. The Wizards are the only NBA team currently with a reverse split of a losing record against losing teams and a winning record against winning teams.

The 2017-18 NBA season is only about a third of the way finished, and things may end up evening out, but the contrast the Wizards are seeing is very rare. No team has finished a season with a reverse split since at least the 2001-02 season (as far back as ESPN.com's expanded NBA standings go).

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It's usually the other way around and to a dramatic extent. Last season, the Wizards were 27-9 against teams with losing records compared to 22-24 vs. those at .500 or better. 

In every NBA season, even some good teams are bad against other good teams. And usually, even bad teams are good against other bad teams. Last season, seven teams that missed the playoffs had winning records against teams below .500, including the Knicks, Sixers and Kings.

This season the Wizards have already lost to the Hornets (9-16), Lakers (10-15), Clippers (9-15), Suns (9-19) and Mavericks (7-19). Their under. 500 difficulties also include defeats against the Jazz (13-14) and the Heat (12-13). Two more and they will match their total losses against sub-.500 teams from all of last season.

Many of the Wizards' games have been close and they are ending up on the wrong side far too often. Their losses against the Lakers, Heat and Clippers were all by three points or less.

No team in the East has had more games decided by three points or less than the Wizards, who are 1-5 in those scenarios. No one else in the East has lost more than three such games.

The Wizards only lost six games decided by three points or less all of last season. They were 9-6 in those games and only two teams won more of them.

The numbers from last year suggest the Wizards will snap out of this at some point, but like Beal said, it should probably happen sooner than later.

"We’ve gotta learn how to put teams away. We’ve gotta learn how to put our foot on the gas," he added. "These are important games and games that we need to win and should have won."

The Wizards keep playing up and down to their opponents and it's leading to a staggering amount of regrettable defeats.

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