MIAMI — Paul Pierce’s welcome in Miami was as expected. He was the first player of the night introduced and was booed. Just after a timeout concluded, a small, “Paul Pierce (stinks)!” chant had a brief life. His grappling against the Heat during his time with the Celtics was not forgotten.
If it was, he brought reminders. Pierce hit a fadeaway in the lane to quiet the crowd during a run from the Heat. The microphone hooked onto the rim picked up his scream when he crammed a two-handed dunk on the break.
Three times in the first half, Pierce passed out of double teams for scores. His drop-off bounce pass to Marcin Gortat produced a dunk. Twice, he found Drew Gooden III for open midrange jumpers and twice Gooden hit. Pierce had 11 points, four rebounds and four assists on just seven shots in the first half.
His influence on the game, his first with the Wizards, was vast. It also was not enough.
The Wizards’ 107-95 loss arrived after they were undone by 35 fourth-quarter Miami points which left coach Randy Wittman irritated.
Miami scored on its final 10 possessions. Among those were a 28-foot 3-pointer from Norris Cole, a career 33.3 percent shooter from behind the 3-point line late in the shot clock. Another was a 25-foot 3-pointer from Dwyane Wade, a career 28.9 percent 3-point shooter.
Those anomalies combined with ineffective Wizards defense had the team disengaged on opening night from what its identity is expected to be.
“We didn’t guard off the dribble all night long tonight,” Wittman said. “We just got beat off the dribble too much. We didn’t have a presence at the rim. We didn’t have a willingness to step in and take a charge or next somebody down. We just played the game. Hate to see how many layups right at the rim that they got.”
To Wittman’s point was Miami’s staggering efficiency inside the 3-point line. They shot 73.6 percent on two-point shots. Miami scored on 10 consecutive possessions from the 5:22 mark on. Regardless, the Wizards were in touch throughout the night.
Pierce was the answer when the Heat pushed out to a five-point lead in the third quarter. He blew past Luol Deng — LeBron James’ replacement in Miami — for a layup and was fouled. That started a surge from the Wizards. A 9-2 run in the next 1:50 followed, prompting a Miami timeout.
John Wall was in the middle of the push. Twice he created solo fastbreaks and twice he scored at the rim.
With 8:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, all the highlight editors were busy. Miami forward James Ennis had just ferociously dunked on Wizards forward Rasual Butler. Posters were set up, videos were edited and the Miami crowd roared.
The Wizards opted for a timeout. Ennis’ crushing right-handed dunk followed by a made free throw put the Heat up 82-75, which, at the time, was their largest lead of the night.
Washington was able to steady itself when Pierce re-entered following the timeout. Pierce’s made free throws dragged the Wizards back to within a point, 84-83.
But, the Wizards’ slumped shoulders and stoic faces explained what happened prior to a timeout with just 1:51 remaining. Cole had just hit his deep, late, deflating 3-pointer from 4 feet behind the line with the shot clock about to run out. He scored a career-high 23 points.
Wade — who left the game for a spell in the second half — had a well-covered baseline jumpshot rattle in. The Heat led 99-92, giving the techno-fueled crowd reason to scream.
There was no remaining pushback from the Wizards. Wade hit his late 3-pointer and closed the Wizards’ hopes. The Heat was in front 104-95 before Wade made another 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“I think that fourth quarter, it was our worst defensive quarter,” Pierce said. “We have to be better in that aspect.”
Pierce scored 17 points. Wall had 16 points and 11 assists. Gooden and Gortat each scored 18.
Despite Pierce’s first-half efficiencies, and Wall’s nine assists, the Wizards still trailed, 53-52, at the half. The reason was Chris Bosh.
Bosh contends he’s naturally an introvert. With a new maximum contract and no LeBron, Bosh has stepped to the front of the Heat’s offense. Wade is moving into the end of his career and if money and shots are an indication, the Heat will run through the season as Bosh’s team.
The Wizards had no answer for Bosh. His 19 first-half points came from deep — he was 3-for-4 from behind the 3-point line — and worked the perimeter against Gooden, Kris Humphries and Kevin Seraphin. Seraphin picked up two fouls in less than three minutes of guarding Bosh before the Wizards controlled Bosh in the second half. He finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
“I didn’t think we did anything good on Bosh,” Wittman said. “We didn’t do anything differently than concentrate a little bit more and have an understanding that the guy can make a jump shot.”
The Wizards were working with a depleted roster. Glen Rice Jr. (ankle) did not play. Martell Webster (back) remained out. Kris Humphries (hand) was ineffective in limited minutes.
The injuries and suspensions produced a makeshift starting lineup of Wall, Garrett Temple, Pierce, Gooden and Gortat.