The last time the Wizards saw the Miami Heat, they were giving up 114 points -- still a season-high -- to an offensively challenged unit that shot the lights out from deep with Dion Waiters, Goran Dragic, Derrick Williams and James Johnson.
A lot has changed since that Nov. 19 game. The Wizards (9-13) appear to have steadied their ship, winning three of their last four games. The Heat (7-17) are struggling to stay above water.
"If we do a better job of guarding one-on-one like we have the been doing the last two games, it takes a lot of pressure off Marcin (Gortat) to help," point guaard John Wall said. "And having the guards help box Whiteside out. We can stop him from doing what he do but it's tough. It's not easy."
Therein rests the biggest key to whether or not the Wizards can win their third game in a row for the first time this season.
Wall and the backcourt weren't on the same page with Gortat in the first game with Miami, a 114-111 loss at Verizon Center. The guards wanted help. Gortat was intent on keeping his body on Whiteside, fearful of lobs over the top. What ended up happening was Miami got everything it wanted.
Whiteside still had 18 points and 18 rebounds, but the Wizards likely will have to use a similar strategy to neutralize him that worked so well against the length of the Milwaukee Bucks in a 110-105 victory on Saturday.
Wall injected such pace into the game in the second half, and they moved the ball so switfly, it resulted in high-percentage looks. And coach Scott Brooks went to the smaller lineup, with Kelly Oubre at small forward and Otto Porter as the stretch forward, for the second game in a row with success to close out.
"I also liked the way we were talking about pushing the ball, trying to get up within four seconds of the shot clock," Brooks said. "I thought John really triggered that in the second half, really attacking with pace. We have one of the fastest point guards in the league and we have to utilize that and I thought he did a good job. And Brad( Beal), they did a good job double-teaming him and keeping his looks to a minimum but he did a good job of passing out of the double-team. He had six assists but he easily could have had 12, a lot of good looks out of his passes.”
The Heat are one of the few teams that deosn't consistently send the ball baseline on side pick-and-rolls. They prefer to blitz it with multiple defenders, force the ball-handler to pick up his dribble and use their length to recover and rely on Whiteside's shot-blocking to bail them out. They didn't do much of that in their last game vs. the Bulls, but Wall and Beal tend to force teams into more aggressive coverages. The simple pass and ball movement to find the open shooter, however, can beat it.
The ball moves faster than any defender, no matter how long his reach. The Bucks found that out the hard way as the Wizards picked them apart but will they show that poise again? Repeating good habits for them has been a challenge.