The Wizards had battled back. Back all the way from 19 down in the first quarter. Back from a nine-point halftime deficit thanks to a 16-6 run to open the third quarter. Back from five down with 10 minutes left in the game.
And with 44 seconds left, they had the chance to take the lead.
But … DeShawn Stevenson went 0-for-2 from the foul line.
“It’s tough. I missed those big free throws,” he said. “We battled back, they made tough shots. I don’t know, man. I just missed them. It’s tough we fought so hard to get back like that and held a great all-star like that and to come down to free throws and miss is just heartbreaking.”
Then the ball was in Gilbert Arenas’ hands. Dwyane Wade had hit a 20-foot jumper. Heat 91-89, 24.6 seconds. Gilbert Arenas had the ball in his hands. He drove and lost the ball as he went up and then got clobbered. He crashed to the ground and was looking for a call, but he didn’t have control of the ball when he drove. Wiz foul Wade, who got the rebound. Makes one of two free throws for the Heat, 92-89, 15.9 seconds.
Gil gets the ball again coming out of a time out, drives baseline and tries to throw a lob to Brendan Haywood, but what happened?
“Obviously it hit the rim,” a surly Gilbert said afterwards. “It’s not rocket scientist. Hit the rim.” (yeah, scientist).
Wizards had to foul again, this time Haslem went to the line for Miami. Made one of two. Heat 93, Wiz 89, 7.2 seconds left. Wizards timeout.
Arenas had the ball again. Would it be a hibachi moment? No. He drove baseline again, and this time his shot rolled across the rim. Game over.
The Wizards were down by three at one point, and four late, but both Gilbert and Flip both said taking a 3-pointer wasn’t an option they considered.
“Shoot a 3 and you miss it, games over,” Arenas said. “You get a two, it’s still a game.”
Said Flip: “We needed three, but we had a timeout left and 16 seconds on the clock. So we told him in the timeout, get a quick two and we’ll play the foul game and we’ve got a timeout. What happens in that situation, you miss the 3 then you are done. … You make a layup call a timeout or foul with 10 seconds left and you’re down by one. … Anyone who thinks we should’ve been casting 3’s, you’ve got to know your situations.”
Flip said while the last minute of the game stood out obviously, it was the early minutes of the game, where the Wizards came out cold and flat and fell behind by 19 that did them in. “The basketball gods will get you. You can’t cheat the game,” Saunders said about his team’s poor execution early on.
The flat start indeed put the Wizards in a hole, and instead of taking a lead or being right in the mix early, they had to put forth so much energy just to come back (wait, sounds like last season, doesn’t it?)
It’s pretty obvious the Wizards need Antawn Jamison. They got by without him in the opener, got by without him in game three. But you can only go without 20 points and 10 rebounds for so long. 7-Day-Dray did his part. Yeah, it wasn’t 30 points, or 20 points, but he had a very active game with 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocks and two assists. The Wizards got 16 and 11 from Brendan Haywood, who also had two blocks.
But they needed more, especially with Caron Butler only posting 13 points. Flip said “Caron was doing a lot of other things for us,” which is true. He had 10 rebounds. But also five turnovers. He was 6-for-13 tonight, but hasn’t had the aggression that we’re used to seeing out of him.
Butler wasn’t pleased with himself after the game, saying “I got caught watching the show instead of being a part of it a bit more. Deferred too much. I look forward to playing the next game and throughout the season. I know my role. Obviously, you just are adapting to the new situation, having guys back and just have to stay aggressive, be aware, don’t get caught watching the show.”
After a long shower, Gilbert Arenas gave his assessment of the game, and called for Butler to become more aggressive while they try to “keep the boat going until everybody’s healthy.” On Butler, Arenas said, “Shoot the open shot. Caron’s a rhythm player and so, in our old system, he had enough time to get into his mojo and get those shots. In this system, he’s gotta get a lot of catch and shoots, and the first initial shot he has he doesn’t usually take it. And everything closes up from there. He’s just got to get used to catching and shooting.”
Caron does need to attack more. Whether it’s catch and shoot on an open jumper, or doing his typical brief yo-yo-get-the-rhythm then hit it. Either way, the Wizards need more scoring, especially with Miller now down. It’s not coming from Oberto, and Haywood — although he’s scoring — isn’t a prime offensive option. As Flip said: “I don’t want Brendan to get too comfortable thinking he’s a scorer, because his main priority for us is defense.” Butler’s priority is, although he’s charged with being a defensive stopper now. It’s got to be a tough balance he’s having to find. But, I have a feeling Tuff Juice will figure it out. Hopefully for the Wizards, he bounces back big next time out.