- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2008

MIAMI | As Dwyane Wade goes, so go the Miami Heat.

After carrying his team to its first NBA title two seasons ago, the All-Star guard was hobbled with a knee injury and missed a combined 31 games the last two years. As a result, Miami sunk from contender to basement dweller.

But it was evident during the Beijing Olympics that Wade is back to top form. And on Friday, he led the Heat to a 97-77 win over the Wizards with 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

Wade got Miami (5-4) going with eight points in the first quarter, but he saved his best work for the third. After trailing 49-36 at halftime, the Wizards (1-6) cut their deficit to 56-50 with 7:21 left in the third.

Then Wade scored 12 points to lead his team on a 20-3 run that gave it a 76-53 lead heading into the fourth. The Wizards, meanwhile, missed seven straight shots in that span.

“That’s what the great players do, and right now we don’t have a great player to do that or at least neutralize that or to answer back,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “We had to do it obviously as a team, and we didn’t bring that intensity we needed to overcome a Wade. … We just didn’t have the attitude or the personality to fight back.”

Rather than build on Wednesday’s victory over the Utah Jazz with strong defense and crisp offensive execution down the stretch, Washington couldn’t answer Miami’s energy and athleticism.

When Wade wasn’t punishing the Wizards’ defense with 3-pointers, dunks and fadeaway jumpers, his supporting cast supplied the demoralizing plays.

Heat forward Michael Beasley, the No. 2 pick in the 2008 draft, scored 19 points. Fellow rookie Mario Chalmers added nine points, a game-high seven assists and three steals.

Although Miami mostly used a lineup that featured the 6-foot-9 Beasley as its tallest player, it outrebounded Washington 52-33. The discrepancy resulted in a 23-14 Heat advantage in second-chance points.

“You might as well have five 5-6 guys out there if you’re not going to fight, come over and make a play at the rim and take people’s space away and initiate the contact,” Jordan said. “And we didn’t have that with any of our bigs.”

Antawn Jamison scored 15 points to lead Washington, but no other starter scored in double digits. Caron Butler scored a season-low six points on 3-for-10 shooting. Center JaVale McGee and guard Nick Young added 13 points apiece. Forward Oleksiy Pecherov contributed 10 points late in the game.

The Wizards trailed the Heat 27-20 after one quarter but quickly saw the game slip away after struggling to find their offensive rhythm.

In previous games when the Wizards’ starters stumbled on offense, Jordan turned to his reserves for energy and a scoring burst to keep the team in contention. But the Wizards couldn’t get the push they needed Friday and spent the majority of the second quarter trying to erase a double-digit deficit.

Jordan started the second half with Darius Songaila at center instead of Etan Thomas in an attempt to spread the floor and generate more offense. And the move worked as the Wizards narrowed the Heat’s lead to six. But the Wizards couldn’t sustain the momentum, and the game became lopsided in a seven-minute span thanks in part to Wade’s charge and their own collapse.

“He did a good job attacking the basket, drawing a lot of fouls,” guard DeShawn Stevenson said. “We did a good job cutting it close, then we had a lot of turnovers, weren’t making baskets we normally easily make, and they just took the lead.”

The Wizards get another crack at the Heat on Tuesday night at Verizon Center.

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