MIAMI — The Washington Wizards are set to take on the Miami Heat, and will try to get their first win of the season against Dwyane Wade & Co. this season.
The Wizards already have played their Southeast Division foes twice this season (one in D.C., one in Miami) and have lost both times. It’s important that the Wizards get a win tonight not only because they need to start digging out of the early hole they’ve dug thimselves into, but also for possible playoff implications.
“It hurts when you’ve lost to them twice,” said Wizards coach Flip Saunders. “Tonight is a two-game swing because if you don’t win the game, you’re going to lose any type of tiebreaker down the road for home. You’d like to be 1-1 coming down here, but we’re not.”
The Wizards are 10-34 in Miami all-time, which is terrible. But Gilbert Arenas has an even uglier stat when it comes to facing Wade. Arenas is 0-19 against Wade (including 0-4 showing in the conference semifinals in 2004-05). Arenas, since coming to the District, has only one win against the Heat, and that came Dec. 15, 2006 (106-98) while Wade was sidelined.
The Wizards get Caron Butler back from the ankle injury that kept him out of Tuesday’s game, and will start Arenas, Young, Butler, Jamison and Haywood.
Look for JaVale McGee to get a good amount of playing time off the bench as he continues to please Saunders with the strides he’s making. After getting the disciplinary pass-over for five-game stretch after displaying a lack of consistent effort and energy, McGee was back on the court last Saturday against the Spurs, and then again Tuesday vs. the 76ers.
McGee in San Antonio had seven points, three rebounds and three blocks in 14 minutes of action. The Wizards got blown out, but his play impressed Saunders.
“He played very well in San Antonio,” Saunders said. “He contested shots and blocked one of Tony Parker’s and Tony kind of looked around like ‘Where did that guy come from?’ He’s gotten it the last couple weeks. He’s played with energy and played under control. Some times he has the tendency to get carried away on the offensive end, but he’s done a good job and we’ve gone to him early.”
Saunders played McGee 14 minutes on Tuesday vs. the 76ers as well, and this time the second-year center recorded a career-high six blocks in addition to four rebounds and four points.
“He’s a play changer,” Saunders said. “There’s not a lot of guys in this league that have that ability that you can put them in and they can change plays. He’s young yet, but I think you keep on nurturing and developing, he can be a play-changer because he can erase mistakes around the basket that guys make defensively, and he can do a lot of things to control the paint.”