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Jimmy Butler dominates as Wizards' valiant effort in Miami falls short

Jimmy Butler dominates as Wizards' valiant effort in Miami falls short

It would've been easy for the Wizards to rest on the excitement of Thursday night's win over the Sixers and phone it in against the Heat before a Friday night in Miami. 

But they didn't, and while they didn't come up with the win, the Wizards showed resolve and grit against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. 

Here are the top takeaways from the 112-103 loss. 

Wizards forced to use their depth

Coming into the game the Wizards were already down CJ Miles, Jordan McRae and Thomas Bryant with long-term injuries, but then Ian Mahinmi was scratched so he didn't have to play a back-to-back and Isaiah Thomas was ruled out with the same calf injury that kept him on the sidelines against Philly. 

So Scott Brooks reached deep down his bench and deployed some lineup combinations he's rarely had to go with this year. Moe Wagner and Ish Smith got the start alongside Bradley Beal Isaac Bonga and Rui Hachimura while Davis Bertans, Troy Brown and Chris Chiozza were his top reserves. 

At one point, the Wizards fielding a lineup of Chiozza-Brown-Bertans-Bonga-Schofield. Per Cleaning the Glass, those five players have yet to share the court together this season. 

But the Wizards played well. They weren't flat on the second night of a back-to-back, which many would have expected coming off such a great win at home the night before, and they matched the intensity of a consistently hard-playing Heat team for most of the game. 

That's a sign of good culture, which is something the franchise has prioritized in a rebuilding year. I'd be excited to see how they handle the Clippers at home after getting their doors blown off in LA not too long ago. 

Bertans' trade value keeps growing

Davis Bertans showed out on the big stage against the Sixers Thursday and continued his hot streak from deep in Miami. He finished with 19 points, going 5-13 from three, and it's clear defenses are insanely worried about him coming off screens. 

With an expiring $7 million deal, Bertans is a prime trade target for contenders who need bench scoring and floor spacing. 

Before the year it would have been blasphemous for the Wizards to get a first-round pick for Bertans, but now? I'd be surprised if they don't get at least one for him if they wish to deal him. 

An elite uniform night

It's "City Edition" season in the NBA and the Wizards and Heat brought it Friday night. 

The Wizards went with the "Stars and Stripes" for the second night in a row, while the Heat sported another iteration of their famous "Miami Vice" jerseys. 

I move for both uniform combinations to be made permanent additions for years to come. 

Rui Hachimura vs Herro and Nunn

This game featured three of the best rookies the game has had to offer in Rui Hachimura, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Herro turned in the best game by a healthy margin with 22 points, but Hachimura proved he's at a similar level as those two standouts. 

The ninth overall pick turned in another solid line with 14 points, six rebounds and a loud dunk

Hachimura seemed to hit a wall two weeks ago but is now back to showing key improvements in every game. 

The Wizards have to be thrilled with what they've seen so far out of the rookie and it's exciting to think about his upside on both ends of the floor running alongside Beal and John Wall. 

No answers for Bam Adebayo

Bam Adebayo may be one of the most versatile centers in NBA history. 

He has unreal foot speed and instincts on defense that allows him to guard just about everyone on the floor, and his ball-handling on offense is unprecedented for such a young big man. 

On Friday, the Wizards' shaky paint defense had next to no answers for Adebayo, who ended up with 24 points and 13 rebounds on 10-16 shooting. 

The good news for the Wizards is there aren't many players like Adebayo in the league today, but at some point, they're going to have to figure out how to defend the paint. 

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Rui Hachimura to battle top rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro in Wizards vs. Heat

Rui Hachimura to battle top rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro in Wizards vs. Heat

As the Wizards travel to Miami to take on the Heat on the second leg of a back-to-back, standout rookie Rui Hachimura is set to square off against two of his chief competitors in the rookie of the year race. 

2019 first-round pick Tyler Herro and undrafted former G-League star Kendrick Nunn have played a large part in the Heat's 15-6 start. 

TUNE IN NOTE: The Wizards and Heat tip-off on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington

But Miami is one of the most difficult teams to play against. They're tremendous defensively thanks to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo anchoring Erik Spolestra's scheme, and they consistently put pressure on defenses by driving to the hoop. 

The Wizards put on a very impressive performance against the Sixers, but they can't expect to play any worse and come away with a win on a back-to-back in South Beach. 

Here's a breakdown of who you should know heading into this matchup between the Wizards and Heat. 

Tyler Herro-Kendrick Nunn rookie duo

One of the biggest weaknesses for the Heat over the last few years was shot creation. Against good defenses, the Heat routinely struggled to generate good looks and remained at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture because of it. 

Signing Jimmy Butler was a great start, but they still needed more creation on offense to make legitimate noise this season they were going to have to find offense from somewhere other than him. 

So far this season, they've found it in Herro and Nunn. 

Herro is averaging 13.6 points off the bench on 39 percent from three while Nunn is posting an impressive 15.3 points and 3.4 assists while starting every game for the Heat as an undrafted rookie who played in the G-League all of last season.

Rui Hachimura exceeding everyone's expectations in his rookie season and is coming off one of his best games yet in the form of a 27-point, seven-rebound outing against Joel Embiid and the Sixers Thursday night. 

If it weren't for Ja Morant's greatness, Hachimura, Nunn and Herro would be at the forefront of the Rookie of the Year Award conversation. It should be a treat to watch these young players go after each other Friday night. 

Jimmy Butler

While the rookies have garnered most of the attention in Miami so far this season, it's been Butler quietly driving everything on both ends of the floor. 

He's an elite defender who will almost certainly be tasked with defending Bradley Beal, and he's a force on the offensive end who's incredibly difficult to keep out of the paint. 

Butler's the type of player who will constantly put pressure on the Wizards Friday night, and on a back-to-back following the biggest win of the year, that's a bad mix for Washington. 

It's hard to expect the Wizards to come out and put together a winning effort after such an improbable win over Philly, but you never know. Getting a big win in front of your home fans is the kind of thing that can lead to a run of multiple victories. 

The Wizards and Heat tip-off on Friday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington. 

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Dwyane Wade turns back the clock, Heat torch Wizards

Dwyane Wade turns back the clock, Heat torch Wizards

The Washington Wizards lost to the Miami Heat 113-108 on Saturday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. March Madness entered Capital One Arena Saturday night, but had nothing to do with the NCAA Tournament.

The Dwyane Wade farewell tour made a stop in Washington for the final time in his illustrious, 16-season career. The Heat legend announced his retirement before the season tipped, meaning fans had all year to plan for a final sendoff. They came out in droves for the 2006 NBA Finals MVP – and left more than satisfied thanks to their hero’s performance and the Wizards' missed opportunities late.

Wade scored a team-high 20 points with nine rebounds, five assists and two three-pointers. Miami entered the fourth quarter trailing 79-78, but led for the final 10:23 and fended off every Wizards push, with Wade fronting the action.

He scored 11 points in the fourth with a stretch of nine consecutive for the Heat. Wade’s pull-up jumper capped the personal run and put Miami up 104-99 with 4:12 remaining. The Heat scored the next five points as the margin reached 10 and the pro-Wade crowd swooned, but the Wizards still had a chance to tie inside the final minute.

Tomas Satoransky produced in the fourth, but missed a game-tying three-pointer with 26.3 seconds left. Following a timeout, Wizards nemesis Kelly Olynyk dunked on the subsequent possession.

The loss dropped the Wizards (30-44) 6 1/2 games back of the Heat (36-37) for the eight playoff spot in the East with eight games remaining in the regular season.

2. Jeff Green sizzled off the bench for the Wizards with 25 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Bradley Beal scored 16 points, while Satoransky veered into triple-double territory with 12 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Washington outrebounded Miami 53-44, but shot 42.7 percent from the field compared to the Heat’s 50 percent. 

3. Thomas Bryant had 17 points and 11 rebounds while Bobby Portis finished with 14 and 11. The duo started together for a second consecutive game, giving the Wizards a big man tandem and perhaps a preview of their starting power forward and center next season.

That’s why some wondered why Brooks didn’t use them together for more than a literal handful of minutes before Thursday’s game. At the very least, this closing stretch offers Brooks and the organization a chance at the pairing with two 2019 restricted free agents.

“We gotta experiment and see different lineups and see how they do,” Brooks said Thursday. “Obviously, we’ve got decisions to make.”

Curiously, Brooks pushed back on the idea of any experimentation with the 2019-20 season in mind before Saturday’s game when asked about Bryant-Portis, even after a reporter mentioned Thursday’s comments.

"I haven't even thought about that,” Brooks said pre-game Saturday. “I'm not looking at it as an experiment. I'm looking at it (as) we're changing the lineup and making some adjustments and see how they play. I played them a little bit together. But it gives us a bigger lineup. None of this is going down as, 'Ok, if it doesn't work' — we all know that guys are free agents, but we still have nine games to play and going out every game and competing. And we have. It's just every game has gone down to the wire, except the one. I anticipate our guys are going to continue to fight. But the experiment, I'm not looking at it as an experiment. I'm looking at it as those guys continue to improve, they're young players and TB is 21 and BP is 24. They're getting starting minutes and it's a great opportunity for them to get better." 

Whatever the rationale, using Bryant and Portis together strictly to evaluate makes sense. Both can pop from outside, are decently athletic and can rebound. Defensive limitations are apparent, but shouldn’t be a disqualifier when debating contracts this summer.  The more intel on the matter, the better.

4. The Wizards played without Trevor Ariza (groin strain) for a second consecutive game, meaning another start for rookie guard Troy Brown Jr.

The only starter not to reach double figures, Brown had seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. Experience is the key at this point, and Brown is receiving plenty now. His 25 minutes is the most important stat, though making a few shots wouldn’t hurt.

5. There’s often a question in Miami about the level of game-to-game interest from the fan base. The Heat backers showed up in force Saturday night in Chinatown. No doubt, there was crossover interest with Wade’s final regular season game in Washington. The entire building cheered when the future Hall of Famer entered for the first time midway through the first quarter. Hopefully no Wizards’ fans were part of a “Let’s go Heat” chant late in the second. More roars followed throughout, including on a dunk from the 37-year-old in the third.

Respect came from all angles in the fourth, including Wizards ownership.

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