After sleeping through a first half in which they trailed the visiting Miami Heat by double digits for long stretches, the Wizards rallied for a dramatic second-half comeback Wednesday.
Washington had three chances to take the lead in the final minute but blew all of them, falling 93-89 at Verizon Center.
The fourth-quarter miscues were a big culprit in the second loss in as many nights for the Wizards (2-3), who blew an 18-point first-half lead Tuesday in Cleveland.
After battling back from a 19-point first-quarter deficit and trading leads with the Heat five times in the fourth quarter, the Wizards missed two foul shots and made several other mistakes in the final 44 seconds to suffer another defeat.
“I just said to myself, ‘You guys would ask about the last minute, but I remember the first minute, falling behind by 19 and lacking the energy we played with the first three games and not maintaining consistency,’ ” coach Flip Saunders said. “What happens sometimes, as I always say, ‘The basketball gods will get you.’ You can’t really cheat the game.”
Dwyane Wade scored 40 points to lead all players, and Gilbert Arenas had 32 points for Washington but shot 9-for-27 from the field and made three miscues in the final 25 seconds.
After entering the second half down 50-41, Washington erupted with a 16-6 run to take a 57-56 lead with 6:28 left in the third quarter. Center Brendan Haywood, a night after being rendered useless by foul trouble, scored eight points during the charge. Arenas scored 10 points in the third quarter, which featured six lead changes and ended with the score knotted at 66-66.
Arenas made a 3-pointer with 5:30 left in the game to give his team an 82-79 lead, but Mario Chalmers answered right back to tie it. A goaltending call on Wade gave the Wizards another brief lead before Quentin Richardson made his team’s eighth 3-pointer.
A block by Andray Blatche on Udonis Haslem with 2 1/2 minutes left kept the score tied at 87-87, but Arenas was called for an offensive foul. Then Haywood came up with a steal, and Arenas came through, driving the lane and splitting two defenders for a layup that put Washington ahead 89-87 with 1:30 left.
Coming out of a timeout, however, Jermaine O’Neal knocked down a game-tying jumper. With 44 seconds left, DeShawn Stevenson had a chance to give his team a lead after getting fouled on a breakaway. He promptly missed both foul shots. Wade made him pay, drilling a long jumper for a 91-89 advantage with 24.6 seconds left.
Arenas drove to the basket on the ensuing possession but lost the ball on his way up, and Haywood was forced to foul Wade, who with 15.9 seconds left made one of two foul shots. Arenas again drove and threw a lob to Haywood, but the pass missed its mark. Seconds later, Arenas shot an air ball on a baseline layup, and Miami escaped with the win.
“Rather frustrating,” said forward Caron Butler, who scored 13 points and had 10 rebounds. “Starting off so slow and obviously me personally making a lot of mental mistakes and still having to gather ourselves and rally back and still fall short is rather frustrating not to get the victory, but there’s a lot of things we can learn from this.”
Putting a further damper on the night was the loss of guard Mike Miller, who sprained his left shoulder in the third quarter. He returned, but after a brief stretch he took a hard foul and landed on his shoulder and aggravated the injury. Miller left with 8:35 remaining in the quarter holding his left arm tightly to his side and did not return. Saunders said he will be out seven to 10 days.
He’s the second starter the Wizards have lost to a shoulder injury in this young season. Forward Antawn Jamison suffered a partially dislocated right shoulder in the preseason, leaving Washington to make do without its leading scorer and rebounder from the past two seasons.
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