- The Washington Times - Friday, December 30, 2005

To put Washington’s 13-game losing streak to Miami in perspective, consider: Only three current Wizards have beaten the Heat in a Washington uniform.

Jared Jeffries, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas were members of the Washington Wizards — and teammates of Michael Jordan’s — when the Wizards defeated Miami at MCI Center 91-87 on April 11, 2003.

That sounds impressive. But a quick scan of Miami’s roster reveals only one Heat player, Alonzo Mourning — who sat out the 2002-03 season with a serious kidney condition — was a member of the Heat at that time.

The Wizards, who play host to the Southeast Division-leading Heat (17-13) tonight at MCI Center, almost ended the Heat’s dominance over them when the teams met Dec. 11 in Miami. But budding superstar Dwyane Wade ended the Wizards’ threat by pumping in a career-high 41 points in an overtime victory.

Winners of three of their last four games, the Wizards are looking at tonight’s matchup as just another one on the schedule, not as a chance for revenge against a team that has dominated them. The losing streak, of course, includes the Heat’s four-game sweep of the Wizards in the second round of the playoffs last season.

“This history part of it is just that — it’s history,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “It’s a single game with its own personality. We were very competitive down there, and we thought we should have won down there, and that’s as far as it goes.”

The Wizards might have won that game had Shaquille O’Neal not returned to the lineup after missing 18 games with an ankle injury. The massive center injected life in the typically lifeless American Airlines Arena crowd, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to spur the Heat to the 104-101 victory.

Former Heat lottery pick Caron Butler didn’t start for the Wizards in that game, but he made his presence felt with 28 points off the bench. Yesterday Butler, now starting at small forward for Washington, said winning streaks are meant to be broken, not to hover like an albatross.

“I’ve gotten a few first already this season,” said Butler, who was drafted by the Heat with the 10th overall pick in 2002. “I hadn’t won at Denver until we beat them last week. Same thing with Detroit; that was my first win there. We feel like we can win anywhere, and that’s how we look at this game.”

Miami thought that it could win anywhere and against anybody when it began assembling this season’s team over the summer, adding Gary Payton via free agency and trading for Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Williams.

Those pieces haven’t come together as neatly as envisioned.

Perhaps that will change now that Pat Riley — who led the Los Angeles Lakers to four championships in the 1980s — has taken over the coaching reigns from Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy stepped down Dec. 12, the day after the victory over the Wizards.

Since Riley took over Miami is 6-3; they lost in Detroit 106-101 last night. Butler, a huge fan of Riley’s who maintains a relationship with the Hall of Fame coach, believes the Heat will be much better later in the season.

“He’ll make it jell,” Butler said. “He’s got a lot of different personalities to bring together, but I’m sure it will happen for them this year.”



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