- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

The Washington Wizards avoided a franchise-worst 0-6 start with a victory over the visiting Utah Jazz on Wednesday, allowing the players a bit of relief.

Although the Wizards finally got in the win column, the sense of urgency hasn’t subsided, because Washington has to turn its attention to the much-improved Heat, whom they face Friday night in Miami.

“You sleep good one night, and then get prepared for the following game,” forward Caron Butler said. “But the thing about the NBA is there’s always challenges ahead the night after. So after we woke up this morning, you had to think about Miami.

“It was a win,” he added. “So obviously you have momentum, and you want to continue to win, so you go out to Miami and play the same way you did last night because that was a real good basketball team.”

After going a league-worst 15-67 during an injury-plagued campaign last season, Miami (4-4) has a healthy Dwyane Wade, who’s averaging 28.3 points, 7.6 assists and 5.9 rebounds, and a promising second option in rookie Michael Beasley (16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg).

And although legendary coach Pat Riley has retired again and first-year coach/former Riley assistant Erik Spoelstra now guides the Heat, the Wizards expect a stiff challenge.

“Erik Spoelstra is a great coach,” said Butler, who spent the first two seasons of his career in Miami. “I had a chance to really develop under him, and he’s going to go over all the X’s and O’s, so they’ll definitely be prepared. All Riley disciples take a lot from him. They are all just hard-nosed, they demand defense from everybody and they stay in their schemes both offensively and defensively. Their bread and butter is Dwyane, post up Michael Beasley a lot and throw a lot of different looks at you. But they’re a real good basketball team, and they play with a lot of energy.”

Miami goes with a smaller, more athletic lineup the majority of the time with the 6-foot-9 Beasley as the tallest player in the starting lineup.

The Wizards showed Wednesday night that they can go big and yet still put an athletic lineup on the court, a formula that could give the Heat problems.

On two occasions in the win over Utah, Washington had 7-foot JaVale McGee at center, 6-11 Andray Blatche at power forward, 6-9 Antawn Jamison at small forward, the 6-7 Butler at shooting guard and 6-5 DeShawn Stevenson at the point. The length gave the Jazz problems, and the Wizards still ran up and down the court quickly.

“We’re going to go with sort of what was good for us last night,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We’ll go sort of big. Our bigs can be athletic.

“JaVale is a little bit athletic,” Jordan continued with a chuckle. “And Andray, if he really puts his nose to the grindstone, can be athletic. Antawn at [small forward] can be good. We had Caron at [shooting guard] in a pinch, and [Stevenson] ran some point. But certainly we feel that we can go big or small and be pretty athletic.”

Jordan said he won’t use Butler at shooting guard often, however, because he’s a two-time All-Star at small forward and doesn’t “want to deal with that and screw that up … but in a pinch you use Caron at the two and get some post-ups, but you have to know what type of flow you have and work with that. But first you have to have your base, and the main thing is having your base and getting a flow. But we’ll start with our basic package, see what kind of flow we’re in and then diversify as we go along.”

After recording only 19 blocks in its first five games, Washington had 10 blocks against the Jazz, outscored them 40-36 in the paint and outrebounded them 42-37.

And the Wizards, having received a confidence boost from earning a win against a quality opponent, hope to build momentum and play at the same level and earn their second straight win.

Note — Jordan said point guard Antonio Daniels, who returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing Saturday’s game with a sore right knee, likely will not play Friday and will rest his knee the next few days and then be evaluated for Tuesday’s home game against the Heat.

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