The Washington Wizards lost to the Heat 119-112 in Miami on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
With eight players out in the NBA's health and safety protocol, including key contributors like Bradley Beal and Montrezl Harrell, things went pretty much as expected for the Wizards on Tuesday night as they had a tough time battling the Miami Heat. They put up a fight early, but Miami took control with an 18-3 run to close the first quarter and never let go of the lead.
The Heat led by as many as 28 points, and though the Wizards made a run late in the fourth quarter to cut it to five, Miami held on. The Wizards have dropped their last two games after winning two straight. They are back at .500 on the season at 17-17.
Just like the Wizards, the Heat weren't fully staffed. Kyle Lowry and Max Strus were out in protocol, while Bam Adebayo, Dewayne Dedmon and P.J. Tucker are injured. They did have Jimmy Butler (25 points, career-high 15 assists) and Tyler Herro (32 points), though, and that certainly helped.
For the Wizards, it was essentially a glimpse at their farm system. Rookie Isaiah Todd got some run, while Jordan Goodwin and Craig Sword each made their NBA debuts. Sword made the most of it with scrappy defense and some nifty plays on the fastbreak.
The Wizards badly need to get some of their players back, but the good news is they are about to return home for the foreseeable future. They play their next four games at home and 12 of their next 14. They have some tough matchups during that stretch, but this is an opportunity to get back on the winning track.
Though the Wizards' defense has been inconsistent overall this season, they have been excellent on the three-point line. Unfortunately, a lot of the guys who usually help that cause were missing, players like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Raul Neto, Aaron Holiday and Beal, and it showed.
The Heat are a solid three-point shooting team, but shot lights-out against the Wizards. They hit 16-for-34 (47.1%) from long range. Duncan Robinson (26 points) led that effort with eight threes, the most anyone has made against the Wizards this season. Herro added five threes for himself. Gabe Vincent was the only other Heat player to make a triple, but he had three of them.
The Wizards didn't have the best night offensively, but they did make 17 threes. Davis Bertans tied a season-high with five three-pointers, while Spencer Dinwiddie and Corey Kispert each added four.
Too many turnovers
The Wizards were playing a bunch of inexperienced guys and were going up against one of the toughest defenses in the league, so perhaps it's no surprise they had trouble protecting the ball. The Wizards committed 18 turnovers, which led to 24 points for Miami. The Heat had 15 points off 10 turnovers for the Wizards in the first half.
One guy who had quite a few of them, at least early, was Deni Avdija. He had three turnovers in the first 5:47 of the first quarter. You know what, though? That could be a good thing, as this game was arguably about player development, anyways. It was an opportunity for Avdija to play through some mistakes. He clearly has some untapped talent as a play-maker, perhaps he can build off it and be better next time.
Speaking of Avdija, he continues to take one for the team on the defensive end. The Wizards have recognized he may be their best on-ball defender and they are making the most of it. He continues to get some very difficult defensive assignments of all shapes and sizes.
On Tuesday, he had to guard Butler for much of the night. In recent games, he spent extended time on guards Donovan Mitchell and Kemba Walker, and last game it was Tobias Harris. Avdija has produced mixed results, including against Butler who had his third dominant performance against the Wizards this season. But for Avdija, it represents the Wizards showing trust in him despite the fact he's only 20 years old and it's setting the bar higher as he aims to develop into an elite defender.
Head coach Wes Unseld Jr. gave the most current details of the Wizards' COVID outbreak in his pregame press conference and, basically, it's an evolving situation. They thought there was a decent chance Beal would join them for this game, as he is now vaccinated according to the Washington Post. He wasn't able to get cleared, but it sounds like he's close.
Harrell, meanwhile, is not experiencing any symptoms and Rui Hachimura, who is nearing his season debut, is not expected to be thrown off too much in his road back, as Unseld Jr. said he can continue individual work in D.C. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is also now over a week removed from his positive test, so he should be back soon. We'll see about the others.