Starless Heat burn Wizards

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

There was more heat outside on a rare 90-degree day in April day than there were Miami Heat players in uniform.

But summer weather and the roster equivalent of a summer league team was too much for the Wizards, who snapped their nine-game winning streak at home in a 103-98 loss before a sellout crowd at Verizon Center. The Heat's backups clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs for their missing leaders.

Afterward, Wizards forward Martell Webster was told that Rashard Lewis said the Heat - without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem, all of whom didn't play Wednesday night - were good enough themselves to make the playoffs.

"Then he woke up, right?" Webster said. "Honestly, no, we should've blown that team out. We just couldn't get it going. We've got to be able to take care of those games. I've been harping on that all season."

Instead, the Wizards (29-50) again played down to the level of their competition and clinched at least 50 losses for the fifth time in six seasons.

"That's been our nemesis all year," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

The Heat (62-16) attempted a team-record 41 three-pointers and connected on 17 of them one night after the Wizards had allowed the Knicks to hit 20. Only one came from Ray Allen, who instead had a number of easy layups and a first-half dunk en route to 23 points. Former Wizard Lewis (17 points) hit from deep late after fellow former Wizard Mike Miller (14 points) and Shane Battier (15 points) got Miami started early.

"We just did it last night," John Wall said. "... It's very interesting. We still feel like we just gave the game away."

A.J. Price countered for the Wizards, coming off the bench to tie career-highs with five 3-pointers and 23 points. John Wall got his first bucket on a double-clutch slam and came up one rebound short of a triple double (17 points, 11 assists, nine boards). But in a sloppy contest for both sides there was no sign of the team that had ground out the last two victories at home over playoff teams.

Webster (12 points) missed three dunks and hit the underside of the net with a 3-point attempt early. Emeka Okafor corralled the errant shot, but his feeble dunk rattled around before falling in, too. Wall got called twice for palming the ball. The Wizards still had a season-high 15 steals, helping to account for the Heat's season-high 25 turnovers, and Webster gave Washington a 50-46 halftime lead with a long 3-pointer.

He also departed in the third quarter with an abdominal strain shortly after his bounce pass set up Wall's reverse jam for the Wizards' biggest lead of the game, 65-59.

When Jan Vesely saved a ball between his legs under the Miami basket to open the fourth quarter, it turned into an easy layup for Norris Cole to kick off a 14-2 run for the Heat, and the Wizards never led again.

"It's part of the maturation of this team and us as individuals, especially us in the locker room that are leaders," Webster said. "This will leave a bad taste in our mouth, and you have to fight through that. Coming through next season, that's going to be pivotal for us, to have a sense of urgency and understand that you have to be able to take care of the teams that are below .500. And then the teams we have that are above .500 and have their stars out, we've definitely got to take care of those games."

The Wizards will have one final chance to take care of home when they host Philadelphia on Friday.

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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