WASHINGTON -- The Washington Wizards beat the Miami Heat 103-100 at Capital One Arena on Saturday night. Here are five observations from what went down...
7-1 at home
The Wizards came out flat on Saturday in an ugly slugfest of a first half against the Heat. Their defense was good, but their offense was not and they didn't give the home crowd much to cheer for. They trailed by as many as 16 points.
That all changed, however, in the second half when they erupted for 62 points, including a 15-4 run to take the lead at 99-96 with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter on a Spencer Dinwiddie three. By then, Wizards fans were on their feet and bringing the energy the Wizards needed to polish off a victory and snap their two-game losing streak.
That stretch encapsulated what has been an early-season trend. The Wizards are really good at home, now with a 7-1 record, which is best in the Eastern Conference. Only the Warriors (8-1) have been better on their home floor.
On the road, the Wizards have been a .500 team, at 4-4 after losing to the Hornets and Heat in recent days. Though that's not bad, their homecourt advantage has been a real factor so far and that's with their attendance numbers having yet to catch up to their place in the standings.
Remember, back in the 2016-17 season the Wizards really took off because they became dominant at home. And by the end of the season, they were selling out regularly.
Harrell and Dinwiddie
Gafford wasn't the only Wizards center to get into foul trouble. Montrezl Harrell got his third foul right before Gafford, with 8:51 left in the second quarter, and that limited his production. Harrell had 13 points and seven rebounds, shooting 5-for-7 from the field. His game was highlighted by a big dunk on Duncan Robinson in the first quarter.
Dinwiddie saved his best for last. At the end of the third quarter, he only had six points on 2-for-7 shooting. But in the fourth quarter, he caught fire and scored 10 points, shooting a perfect 4-for-4 from the field. His go-ahead three was the biggest shot of the game.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a similar finish. He hit a three right before Dinwiddie, one of three for him in the fourth quarter. He also had 10 points and shot 3-for-3 in the final frame.
The Wizards continue to shine with their 3-point defense. They held the Heat, who entered the game ranked ninth in 3-point percentage (35.3), to just 7-for-27 from long range. That's good for 25.9%, which was an improvement from Thursday's game when Miami shot 38.5% against them.
There have been some rare occasions where teams got hot from long range against the Wizards. It was less than a week ago that the Pelicans shot 52.4%, albeit in a Wizards win. But this was the 11th time in 16 games this season the Wizards have held a team to under 35%. They entered the day first in the NBA in threes allowed (9.5/g), first in attempts allowed (30.3/g) and third in percentage (31.2%). Miami isn't the Warriors, but they're pretty good at shooting threes and the Wizards held them in check.
The Wizards got starting center Daniel Gafford back after a one-game absence due to a sprained right thumb. It seemed like he wouldn't be out long, given he was a game-time decision on Thursday before he sat out. Sure enough, he returned on Saturday, though he didn't have his best game. Gafford got into early foul trouble, picking up his third foul with 7:29 to go in the first half. That likely helped prevent him from finding a rhythm, as he topped out at six points with one rebound and four turnovers.
One of those turnovers was in the first half when he threw an errant pass from the elbow that just sailed right past Caldwell-Pope and out of bounds. It was a mental lapse that doesn't happen often with him. Gafford also seemed to re-aggravate his right thumb on a rebound attempt in the first quarter, so that didn't help his cause. Bam Adebayo is also a tough player to go up against if you aren't 100 percent. In the third quarter, Gafford stuffed him at the rim, only to see Adebayo pick the ball up and put him on a poster with a putback slam.
Lots of turnovers
For the first few weeks of the season, the Wizards were protecting the ball really well, ranking as one of the best teams in the league at limiting turnovers. But that has not been the case lately, as after turning it over 17 times against the Heat on Thursday, they had 20 turnovers in this one, which almost equaled their assist total (22).
While Miami has a very good defense, forcing turnovers isn't really their specialty. They came into this game ranked 13th with their opponents averaging 14.9 turnovers per game. The Wizards, meanwhile, have now allowed 15 turnovers or more in five of their last eight games. They had seven turnovers in the first quarter alone on Saturday. Even though they were able to overcome that, it's an area they will want to improve.