Struggling Wizards hope for better result in Heat rematch

NBA Basketball

The last time Miami played the Washington Wizards, the Heat’s Tyler Herro began a two-game burst in which he averaged 32.5 points and eight rebounds.

The teams will meet again, this time in Miami, on Wednesday night.

Much has changed since that game in Washington on Jan. 9, which Miami won 128-124.

A week later, Herro went down with a neck injury that cost him seven games.

In the three games since he returned, Herro hasn’t been quite the same, averaging 15 points and 5.7 rebounds.

“Our team has a deep roster,” Herro said. “I’m not really worried about the numbers.”

Meanwhile, the Wizards — who own the worst winning percentage in the NBA — are no longer short-handed. Stars Bradley Beal (COVID-19 protocol) and Russell Westbrook (quad injury) didn’t play in the Jan. 9 matchup.

On Tuesday night, Beal scored a game-high 37 points and sank six 3-pointers in Washington’s 132-121 loss to the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.

“Bradley Beal is a hell of a scorer,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

Westbrook also had a big game, putting up a triple-double: 17 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. The Wizards fell behind by 21 points in the first quarter and never caught up, though they got within four points in the final minutes. The result was Washington’s fifth loss in six games.

“You can’t get down 20 points and expect a comeback,” Washington coach Scott Brooks said. “We almost did it (Tuesday) … but we can’t get down by 20 points to start games. It just takes a lot out of you. It takes a lot out of you when you’re trying to get back into game shape. We were just slow (Tuesday), just sluggish for whatever reason.”

Wizards center Thomas Bryant underwent knee surgery on Tuesday due to an injury sustained in that earlier game against Miami. But Washington is getting solid frontcourt productivity from players such as Rui Hachimura, who scored 24 points against the Blazers, and rookie first-round pick Deni Avdija, who had 13 points, seven rebounds and three assists Tuesday.

The Heat, meanwhile, are reeling from a 129-121 overtime loss to the visiting Charlotte Hornets on Monday night. The Miami defense allowed reserve Malik Monk to score a career-high 36 points while shooting 9-for-13 from 3-point range.

One of those 3-pointers came with 16.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

“We have to find a way to get stops and finish it off,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We weren’t able to do that.

“There have been a lot of crippling errors, including live-ball turnovers. We’re last in the league in those. That’s probably our No. 1 priority. If we take care of those, a lot of other things will fall in line.”

There are positives for the Heat, however, and that includes the return of Jimmy Butler from a 10-game absence caused by pandemic protocols. In the two games since Butler returned, he is averaging 27.5 points, eight rebounds, 6.5 assists and two steals.

For the season, Bam Adebayo leads Miami in scoring (20.1) and rebounds (9.3). Adebayo, though, is not impressed with those gaudy numbers.

“You can play as much offense as you want,” he said, “but you have to play defense to win.”

The Wizards can relate to that sentiment after allowing Portland to shoot 21-for-46 (45.7 percent) from beyond the arc on Tuesday.

“We were late to everything,” Beal said of Washington’s inability to get out to challenge shooters. “We were late on our defensive rotations. Offensively, we didn’t play hard enough or fast enough.”

–Field Level Media

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