By Joseph Goodman, The Miami Herald –
WASHINGTON — Comically, the Heat lost to the Wizards on Tuesday night.
The Wizards were, without question, the worst team in the NBA to begin the season. At Verizon Center, that team defeated the defending champions 105-101 on a night LeBron James had his first triple-double since the 2012 NBA Finals.
If the loss was embarrassing for the Heat’s proud players, they surely didn’t show it after the game. They shrugged their shoulders and got on the team’s bus to the airport as fast as possible.
“This ain’t a lesson for us,” James said. “We just lost. It’s all it is. We’ve seen and been through everything, so we don’t need a loss to be like, ‘Oh, let’s catch ourselves.’ It happens.”
Ray Allen won two games last week with late three-pointers, but it was James’ turn to be the hero against the Wizards. James missed a three-pointer to take the lead with 18 seconds left and then missed another three-point attempt to tie it with 3.9 seconds remaining.
The Heat (12-4) was without starting power forward Shane Battier (strained knee ligament) for the third consecutive game and point guard Mario Chalmers left the game with an injured hand in the first half. Reserve point guard Norris Cole missed the game due to injury, and Udonis Haslem, playing with a hip pointer, left the game in the second half after taking a knee to the inflamed area.
The Heat trailed 101-99 when Mike Miller, also playing injured, passed up an open three-pointer from the corner, deferring to James, who was standing wide open on the right wing but missed the shot. Overall, the Heat was 8 of 28 from three-point range.
“It’s the kind of games we’ve been playing,” said Heat guard Dwyane Wade. “It’s nothing out of the ordinary or us. The shots that we normally make down the stretch, we weren’t able to make.”
James came away wanting in the closing seconds but, in truth, the offense wasn’t the problem just like it hasn’t been in every other close game for the Heat against a lesser opponent. As is its custom of late, the Heat approached defense with a casual disinterest in the first half. Washington scored 60 points in the first half.
“The first half, we gave up too much,” James said. “We let them get into their offense relatively easy and they got comfortable.”
The Wizards (2-13) shot 58.3 percent from the field in the first half and was 4 of 6 from three-point range.
“Take nothing from them,” Wade said. “They played a 48-minute game to get this win. The credit goes to them.”
The Big 3 combined for 70 points.
James finished with 26 points to go along with 13 rebounds and 11 assists. His last triple-double came in Game 5 of The Finals.
Wade had 24 points, going 9 of 19 from the field. Chris Bosh had 20 points and 12 rebounds, including three offensive boards.
“We played a great second half,” Wade said. “I thought we played very well in the second half.”
The loss snapped the Heat’s six-game winning streak. Miami is 4-4 on the road this season and 8-0 at home.
Jordan Crawford led the Wizards with 22 points off the bench. He was 7 of 16 shooting and 3 of 6 from behind the arc. His 18-footer with 2:42 left gave the Wizards a four-point lead. The Verizon Center crowd, which included Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, stood as one as tension mounted and the NBA’s biggest upset of the season suddenly seemed possible.
James, who had 11 points in the fourth quarter, cut the Wizards’ lead to two points with 1:54 to play, but Washington reserve Kevin Seraphin answered with a hook shot. Seraphin had 16 points and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench.
Hard work pays off
“It’s just good to put out a win,” Crawford said. “It’s good to know that all the hard work is finally coming through, and it shows that we can be a good team.”
The Wizards have been without star point guard John Wall this season and there currently is no timetable for his return.
Ray Allen had 11 points, going 4 of 12 from the field and 3 of 9 from three-point range. Miller was 4 of 10 from the field and 3 of 8 from three-point range for 11 points.
“It just has to be a concentrated effort,” Allen said. “It seems like we’re getting off to slow starts. We have to jump into the game better than what we’ve been doing because it seems like it’s setting the tone. We have to put our label of how we’re going to play out there.”