- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

MIAMI — It had been almost five months since the Miami Heat finished a season sweep of the Washington Wizards. In that time the Wizards grew on the court and off it, gaining confidence not seen from Washington’s professional basketball team in decades.

And it didn’t help them one bit yesterday.

Miami began the Eastern Conference semifinal series in the same fashion it dominated Washington in the regular season, pulling away for a staggeringly easy 105-86 victory in Game1 at AmericanAirlines Arena. The Heat extended their winning streak over the Wizards to nine games and bettered the almost 13-point average by which they beat the Wizards in the four regular-season meetings.

The Wizards, just two days removed from winning their first playoff series since 1982, opened the game shooting poorly. They recovered from a 17-point second-quarter deficit only to be outscored by the Heat 43-27 over the game’s final 18-plus minutes.

“I thought we came out a little bit tight,” coach Eddie Jordan said of the Wizards, who made just five of 23 shots in the first quarter and 36.8 percent (28-for-76) for the game. “We always give them credit for their defense, but I thought we executed well enough to get open looks and quality possessions. But we didn’t shoot the ball very well.”

The loss was compounded when All-Star forward Antawn Jamison had to leave the game in the third quarter after possibly re-injuring his right knee. He missed 14 games because of tendinitis this season.

Jamison did not comment on the nature of the injury as he limped to the bus. The team is listing him as day-to-day.

“We have to see about Antawn,” Jordan said. “It’s a concern right now for us.”

A rested Miami team, which completed a sweep of the New Jersey Nets a week ago yesterday, looked every bit the top seed in the East against the Wizards, and it didn’t require a wrecking ball of a game from massive center Shaquille O’Neal.

Instead, the Heat got a balanced effort out of their players — including a bench that outscored the Wizards’ 36-5 — to remain undefeated in the playoffs.

In fact, Miami took control of the game after O’Neal left the game with his fourth foul with a little more than eight minutes to play in the third quarter.

That’s when Dwyane Wade, who proved again he doesn’t need O’Neal on the court with him to be a star, took over.

Wade, who led the Heat with 20 points and seven assists, scored 11 in the third, and Miami turned a 62-59 lead with 6:46 left in the quarter into an 82-64 lead entering the fourth.

O’Neal (19 points) re-entered the game with 9:51 remaining and the Heat up 87-71, and that was as close as Washington would get. Miami’s largest lead was 99-78 with a little more than four minutes to play.

Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 25 points and six steals, all of them in the first half. Larry Hughes finished with 23 points and seven rebounds, and Jamison finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Despite the loss, the underdog Wizards were not counting themselves out against a Heat team clearly good enough to win the championship.

“We have to play,” Arenas said. “They can keep beating us and beating us and beating us, but we’re not going to give up. I mean, what are we supposed to do? Not show up? We gotta show up. We are here, and we are going to grind it out.”

And the Wizards might have to grind it out against a Heat team playing even better than it did yesterday. To a man, the Heat admitted they were rusty after the week off.

“We didn’t go for the jugular as much as we would if we didn’t have a layoff,” Wade said. “We knew we were going to be a little bit rusty. We’re at home again Tuesday, and we just want to take care of homecourt.”

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