- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

It doesn’t matter if it’s a taut, hard-fought game, a flat-out whipping or an ugly game where both teams shoot horribly.

Regardless of the style, games between the Washington Wizards and the Miami Heat have had one constant theme for nearly three years: The Heat win.

Last night before a sellout crowd of 20,173 at Verizon Center, the circle remained unbroken for the suddenly banged-up Wizards, who fell to the Heat once again 99-86.

The Wizards, who last defeated the Heat on April 11, 2003, still are fifth spot in the Eastern Conference, two games ahead of idle Milwaukee. But Washington (39-37) would have to win its remaining six games to match the record of last season’s team that also secured the fifth seed in the playoffs.

Washington’s goal right now is to get healthy before the playoffs begin and to maintain the chemistry. To that end, the Wizards players won’t see each other again until tomorrow’s shootaround before a game in Philadelphia.

“We’ll get a day’s rest and close to a full day on Monday and then show up for a 7 o’clock game in Philadelphia,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “And then we can suck it up. That’s what playing big-time basketball is about.”

Among the injured ranks is Caron Butler, who missed his second straight game last night with a sprained right thumb that pains him when he touches the ball. The Wizards also faced Miami without center Etan Thomas, who was out with a lower-back sprain — the same injury Gilbert Arenas is nursing.

Despite the ailment, Arenas led the Wizards with 30 points. They also got a season-high 25 from Antonio Daniels, who started last night. However, they received only 15 from their starting frontcourt of Antawn Jamison, Brendan Haywood (who started for Thomas) and Jared Jeffries.

“Not having Caron and Etan — those are two starters — obviously hurts us,” Jordan said. “But we should be able to execute our plays, defend the right way and then play hard. We’re missing two guys, but that’s not hampering us from doing what we should be doing.”

Injuries aside, many of the Wizards’ problems in this latest loss were partially self-inflicted.

They scored a season-low 12 points in the third quarter. This included a nine-minute stretch in which Heat guard Dwyane Wade (11 points) sat on the bench in foul trouble.

The Wizards didn’t get a point from their bench through three quarters and finished the game making just 39.7 percent of their field goals. They made just 11 shots in the second half, and as a result never got any closer than 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Shaquille O’Neal led the Heat, a lock for the second seed in the East, with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Derek Anderson added 20 off the bench, and Udonis Haslem and Gary Payton finished with 13 apiece.

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