- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Washington Wizards entered Tuesday night vowing to put up a better showing against the Miami Heat than the debacle they staggered through on South Beach last Friday.

Defensive intensity and high-energy execution on offense were the main areas the Wizards expected to change. Washington put forth a better effort, but it couldn’t compensate for its lack of healthy offensive weapons, seasoned veterans and athleticism in a 94-87 loss to the visiting Heat.

The Wizards fell to 1-7, matching their worst start since the 1999-2000 campaign. That season, Washington finished 29-53.

The Wizards, despite holding the size advantage, were outrebounded 42-37. Miami (6-5) made nine 3-pointers and put six players in double digits. Dwyane Wade led the way with 19 points; Mario Chalmers added 15, Daequan Cook had 13, Shawn Marion and Udonis Haslem 12 apiece and Chris Quinn 10.

On the Wizards’ side, forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler scored 25 and 21 points. But the other three starters - Juan Dixon (starting in place of the injured Antonio Daniels), DeShawn Stevenson and Etan Thomas - combined for only 13. Second-year guard Nick Young scored 12 off the bench, but nobody else finished in double digits.

The Wizards made only two 3-pointers, finished with just 17 assists compared with the Heat’s 27 and committed 15 turnovers that led to 20 Miami points. All of that left a frustrated, haggard team to again wonder “what if.”

“This team is built a certain way,” coach Eddie Jordan vented. “This team is built for Gilbert Arenas to lead us. This team is built for our All-Star forwards to carry the wings for us and for certain things that they do offensively for us. And for Brendan Haywood to have a career year and man the middle for us. We don’t have those things.

“This team, we’re asking people to do things they’re not capable of doing. They’re not capable of carrying the load for us like a Dwyane Wade, like a Gilbert Arenas. We’ve got young guys who aren’t going to make veteran plays night in and night out. They’re going to be good here and there. You put all those things together and to be in the game is a credit to everybody in this organization right now - just to be competing in the game.”

The Wizards did get a break: The Heat missed 12 layups and made only 62 percent of their free throws, but Washington couldn’t capitalize.

“It’s tough right now, but we’re going to stay positive and continue to work hard,” Jamison said. “We’re going to do everything possible to turn this thing around. It’s tough when you put yourself in the position to win, but you just can’t get it done.”

Washington overcame another slow start and used a 10-4 run to tie the score at 33 when Young put a move on Wade and knocked down a jumper with 3:38 left in the first half. The teams traded baskets down the stretch, but Miami struck last when Wade scored on a putback to give the Heat a 43-41 halftime lead.

Miami opened the third quarter with a 12-0 run to quickly restore a double-digit lead at 55-41. The Wizards rebounded, pulling within 90-87 when Jamison scored on a scoop shot with 2:03 left. That was as close they would come, though; Jamison’s shot was the only Washington field goal in the final 9:29.

With 33 seconds left, the Wizards had the ball trailing 92-87. But Wade picked off Young’s cross-court pass to Caron Butler and was fouled by Stevenson on his way downcourt. Wade made both shots from the line, icing the victory.

At least the Wizards have a chance to get the defeat out of their system quickly. Shortly after the game, they flew to Atlanta, where they will take on the Hawks (6-4) on Wednesday night.