Wizards 105, Heat 101: Three thoughts

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Sports,Pick and Roll,Craig Stouffer

It wasn’t a night that was supposed to produce a victory for the Wizards. At least, not on paper. Even ESPN’s SportCenter took a shot at Washington, searching for great mismatches. Isn’t the proper word for that “trolling”? In any case, the Wizards weren’t buying it, and the Heat weren’t ready for a Wizards team that had something on its mind other than getting blown out, again. With that, three thoughts from the 105-101 upset victory:

“That was a complete game for us, from start to finish tonight.” Yes, yes it was, Wizards coach Randy Wittman. Complete from a mental standpoint. Complete from an execution standpoint. Complete from just that little-hint-of-luck standpoint.

Wittman drew from his own experience in the NBA. He could’ve drawn from last year, when the Wizards pull off the same kind of miraculous upset victory over Oklahoma City. Good teams have let downs. Bad teams get very hungry.

“I told the guys before the game, I’ve been in the league 30 years, and you see this all the time,” Wittman said. “It’s hard when you’re 1-13, it’s hard sometimes for them to look at a guy, that I’ve seen a lot of no win situations where all of a sudden, ‘Wow, how did that happen?’”

The difference here was that Washington took the lead in the first quarter and never gave it back. The score was tied three times in the final three periods, twice in the second and then late at 88-88. Each time the Wizards scored the next basket. Kevin Seraphin (16 points, 10 rebounds) was 4-for-5 in the fourth quarter, but multiple players delivered, both offensively and defensively.

Washington also executed throughout the game. As Wittman stated, “That’s as good as we’ve moved the ball all year.  To have 31 assists on 38 baskets is hard to do.” Every player that played had at least one assist, aside from Emeka Okafor. (Jan Vesely didn’t have any assists.  He also didn’t play any minutes.)

Wittman also credited how the Wizards had practiced over the last couple of days following their blowout loss at New York. Similar to the response after the San Antonio debacle, this group has a way of galvanizing after a tough defeat. Whether there’s enough there to sustain and build remains to be seen.

And then, there was the influence of Robert Griffin III. A day after the Redskins toppled the defending Super Bowl champions, the Wizards did the same to the NBA champions, and Griffin was present for both.

Inside Verizon Center, he got to witness a crazy sequence in the fourth quarter where Mike Miller and Ray Allen both inexplicably missed open 3-pointers that should’ve helped complete Miami’s comeback. But they didn’t. Will they in May and June? There’s a good chance they’ll make them then. All that matters right now is it’s December in Washington.

“This isn’t a lesson for us,” LeBron James said. “It’s just a loss.”

The Wizards attacked the basket. Well, except for Seraphin. Despite the third-year big man’s composed and efficient performance down the stretch – coming off the bench after the last five games in the starting lineup – he finished with exactly zero of the Wizards’ 29 free throw attempts. If he’s going to make the leap, he’s got to add an attack component to his game. Settling for a jump hook inside five feet isn’t going to cut it. (By the way, still no sign of Nene’s midrange jumper, either.)

Seraphin can use the example of Chris Singleton, who didn’t shoot great at the line (5-for-8) but deserves credit for getting there and finished with a very respectable nine points, nine rebounds and three assists. The Wizards still hit 22 from the line, shooting 76 percent, which was better on all accounts than Miami, which went 11-for-16. James only got to the line three times, missing two in the fourth quarter to legitimately earn free Chick-fil-A for all the fans.

Trevor Ariza seems likely to miss significant time with a left calf strain. The injury floored him in the middle of the game, and he was still limping afterward in the locker room, where a walking boot was added to his wardrobe. He’d been playing well, too, showing a good physical presence inside and picking up five assists.

The Wizards are also still missing Trevor Booker, who’s out another couple weeks with a knee injury that was initially described as mild. Wittman, for all his tactical work over the last couple days, is still saying nothing about John Wall’s timetable, either. The question will change tomorrow from, “What is Wall’s status?” to “Will Wall play this season?”

Perhaps the answer will be a positive one. The victory on Tuesday was.

“It’s going to definitely rank up there,” Wittman said, “with the circumstances involved, the start of the season and the frustration of losing so many close games. This is makes it – I’m going to be able to sleep tonight a little bit. It’s nice, I can’t to lie to you. Now maybe it’s paying off. We took our lumps and losses in those four or five games that we should’ve won and didn’t and let get away. But we learned from it tonight, we put it away. Let’s move on to tomorrow. We get to play Atlanta next, one of the games that we gave away.”

Jordan Crawford puts it in perspective, too: “Now we got two wins. Let’s get some more.”

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Craig Stouffer

Staff writer - sports
The Washington Examiner