- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Miami Heat defeated the Washington Wizards 123-107, but a look at the box score wouldn’t even begin to tell the story.

The game was as close as six points until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter, when the Heat finally pulled away.

The Wizards played most of the game without John Wall, who was ejected with 8:48 left in the second quarter, after Heat center Zydrunas Ilgauskas landed a couple of elbows near Wall’s head, and he responded back with a half punch, half elbow swing.

And rookie Jordan Crawford stepped in and came up large, scoring a career high 39 points on 12 of 24 shooting, including 5 of 8 from three-point land, and 10 of 10 from the line.

Wall was impressed with Crawford’s performance, but tough on himself after the game.

“I was disappointed the way I reacted to it,” Wall said.

“I let my teammates down, I let the organization down, but I’m glad to see my teammates fought hard and tried to compete tonight and come away with a win,” Wall said.

It was the second elbow, Wall explained, that caused him to react, but said he wished his reaction had not resulted in being ejected.

“My teammates had to do without me at the point guard position, but they stepped up big and fought hard,” Wall said.

“They just came up short.”  

Heat forward - and former Wizard - Juwan Howard was also ejected for an apparent elbow swing at JaVale McGee. Wizards coach Flip Saunders, along with Heat coach Eric Spoelstra, took court to inspect the melee, and protect their players.

“[John] took an elbow to the head, and the referees told me he threw an elbow and that’s why he got ejected,” Saunders said.

Play was stopped for several minutes as the officials checked the replays before handing out Flagrant Two fouls on Wall, Ilgauskas, and Howard.

“I went out there to try and break it up. In the heat of the battle; he [Howard] breaks away from the refs. We both asked [each other] where we’re going to go out to dinner after the game,” Saunders quipped.

Once play resumed, the Wizards got off to an uneven start, allowing the Heat to make a run and take an 11 point lead at the half. But for the Wizards, the fight was just beginning. They outscored the Heat in the third quarter and kept the game close until the final few minutes before the Heat made a late run and escaped with the win.

“The score is isn’t an indication of how well we played, really. We competed. We had our chance, but they made big shots and big plays,” Saunders said.

Saunders also had high praise for Crawford’s performance.

Jordan continues to impress and amaze. Whatever you ask him to do, he does. He has no fear. He has great competitiveness and he has different ways to score,” Saunders said.

Equally impressive to Saunders was the way his team “grew up” when Wall was ejected.

“We’re a young team playing against a veteran team, a team that’s built to win a championship,” Saunders said.

“We didn’t back down at all.”