MIAMI — The Washington Wizards led the Miami Heat for much of the game Saturday night at American Airlines Arena. But a fourth-quarter surge by the Heat made a game of it in the fourth quarter as the two teams battled back and fourth. A dunk by Heat forward Udonis Haslem tied the game at 84 with just 4.2 seconds left.
But a John Wall pass and an emphatic dunk by Nene, followed by a long 3-point miss by Heat forward Mike Miller, gave the Wizards a hard-fought 86-84 victory.
“He’s just a big man that knows where to be,” Wall said of Nene. “He just makes it easier. He posts up, he can pass, he can seal his man off. I’m very excited [to play with him]. “He’s always talking to me during games, trying to help Kevin [Seraphin] out. He does all the little things.”
Dwyane Wade was the only member of the Miami Heat’s Big Three, which also includes LeBron James and Chris Bosh, scheduled to play. Less than three minutes into the first quarter, though, Wade dislocated his left index finger, and was out for the night.
Suddenly, the Wizards found themselves playing against Miami’s “B” team, featuring heavy doses of former Wizards Juwan Howard and Mike Miller, along with rookie guard Norris Cole and veteran forward Shane Battier. It was just the lineup the Wizards needed to pull off the win.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra seemed to ponder the idea of putting James in the game when he lost Wade. James left the bench for the locker room in the first quarter to get taped in case the Heat needed him to play, but Spoelstra decided to ride it out with his second-tier squad, and James remained on the bench. Miller, along with Mario Chalmers, led the Heat with 16 points each.
Both teams started off with an uninspired shooting performance, shooting under 40 percent in the first half and barely over 40 percent for the game. Jordan Crawford, playing with a sprained right ankle, struggled, scoring seven points on 2-for-14 from the floor.
“The ankle is cool,” Crawford said. “It’s still sore, but it’s not a problem. It was a great win. I hit the two hardest shots and missed all the easy ones.”
It was an inadvertent tug on Crawford’s jersey that caused Wade’s injury.
“I did’t even see it. I don’t know at all. I just [saw] him lean over and walk out,” Crawford said.
There was also a scary moment when Wall landed awkwardly on his right ankle near the end of the first half, but he was able to play through it and ended with 13 points and 13 assists.
The game was physical and chippy. Kevin Seraphin and Heat center Dexter Pittman exchanged some heated words and few shoves and received double technicals in the third quarter. With Nene still easing his way back into the lineup after missing 10 games with left foot plantar fasciitis, Seraphin is still starting and getting the bulk of the minutes at center. Seraphin finished with 17 points and Nene with 11.
“It was a great pass,” Nene said. ”[Wall] found me there [under the basket]. Fortunately, it was the winning shot. The team played really well. We did great things defensively.”
Nene will use these final games to continue developing his chemistry with Wall.
“That’s the reason I’m back to play these game, because I need to know my teammates a little bit more,” Nene said.
The Wizards, playing for pride, and taking whatever pride they can in playing the role of spoiler, clearly hoped to prove they could defeat the Heat without their star players, while the Heat still have a slim chance at getting past the Chicago Bulls for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
“We struggled offensively tonight, but I thought our defense was pretty solid all night,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “They executed the last play to perfection, and that’s part of the growing up process. It was a heck of a finish.”