- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2003

MIAMI — In recent days coach Eddie Jordan and his staff have emphasized rebounding at Washington Wizards practices, and last night, in a painful 105-101 overtime loss to the Miami Heat, it was clear why that was a major point of concern.

Brian Grant’s put back with 18.9 seconds to play in overtime, and Eddie Jones’ three free throws in the final 8.8 seconds of the extra session sealed the Wizards’ third loss in a row and helped thwart a potential comeback. Washington was down 11 points in the fourth quarter and came back to force overtime.

Jordan isn’t looking for moral victories, but he seemed happy the Wizards fought their way back into the game. But they were forced to claw back because they allowed a nine-point third quarter lead slip away.

“I am proud of my guys; there’s nothing negative that came out of this game,” Jordan said. “It was a very positive thing to execute the way that we did, to hang on, to make steps. If we could have made one or two rebounds at the end we could have gotten out of it. Every game we get closer to being a very good team and closing things out at the end. We just haven’t done it yet.”

Lately, part of the reason for the Wizards struggles has been a lack of aggression under the boards. Kwame Brown had 10 rebounds, Christian Laettner had eight, and Gilbert Arenas (27 points) had seven. But the Heat held a 53-43 rebounding edge.

And in the end it was Grant’s rebound, he had 12, and ensuing basket that gave the Heat a 102-99 lead late in the game.

Larry Hughes finished with 22 points, rookie Jarvis Hayes continued his strong play (17 points) and the Wizards got a decent game from Etan Thomas (13 points, seven rebounds, four blocks).

But the Wizards, who were facing the Heat under new coach Stan Van Gundy for the first time, hurt themselves with costly turnovers in the second half. After committing five turnovers in the first half, the Wizards finished with 15 for the game. Arenas had eight.

“I have to work on that aspect of my game,” Arenas said. “That stuff can kill a team.”

Unable to build a lead larger than five points in the first half, Washington broke out quickly at the start of the third quarter.

After a bucket by Miami’s Lamar Odom (26 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) to start the second half, Washington ran off 10 of the game’s next 12 points. The Heat, trailing 60-51, called time out with 7:21 to play in the quarter.

However, the Wizards play was stagnant and sloppy the rest of the quarter and it hurt them.

Washington made five of 22 shots from the floor and turned the ball over six times in the quarter after five turnovers in the first half.

These gaffes combined to help Miami put together a 16-2 run. During that stretch the Heat went ahead after Jones (27 points) nailed the second of two back-to-back 3-pointers. Not long after, Miami took its biggest lead of the third quarter, 71-65, on reserve center Loren Wood’s two-handed slam.

“They were getting too many second and third shots,” Hughes said of the Heat’s run. “And we turned ball over a couple of times in a row. Eddie was running out to the 3-point line and shooting 3s. Put all those things together and it makes it a tough game to win.”

But Washington still had a chance. It rallied from an 83-73 deficit in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Heat 20-9 including an overtime-forcing layup from Hughes with 2.1 seconds left in regulation.

However, the Heat felt the extra session was necessary only because they let the Wizards back in the game.

“We had it in control,” Grant said. “Even when they made their runs, a lot of times we’d fall behind on our own mistakes.”


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