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.
Pride of Miami Heat, much respect from DC tonight pic.twitter.com/A76xtI1oLm— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) March 24, 2019
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