21 Reasons Why… (Heat-Wizards Recap; 11.17.17)

Debby Wong/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


WASHINGTON — Given the way Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside practiced and prepared in the lead-up to tonight’s game, his dominating performance in one of the league’s toughest road environments tonight was already written in the stars.

Whiteside scored 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds – almost producing a double-double in the second half alone – as the Miami Heat avenged Wednesday’s home loss to Washington with a 91-88 victory over the Wizards at Capital One Arena, snapping a two-game losing streak. After attempting just eight shots (4-8 FG) two nights ago, arguably the Eastern Conference’s most dominant center hit 10 of his 12 field goal attempts, with most of his makes coming in the powerful, two-handed dunk variety.

“Hassan came to play, and that started yesterday in the film session and practice,” said Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He has a great mentality. He followed it up with another real focused, detailed shootaround. He’s getting better each week of the season, just in terms of learning how to impact winning for this basketball team in all facets: practices, moving, shooting arounds, film sessions and then proving it with his play. His energy, particularly in the first half, was outstanding.”

The description of Whiteside’s first half from Spoelstra could easily describe the entire team’s play in the first 24 minutes, as Miami jumped out to a 26-17 lead after the first quarter and built a lead of as much as 25 late in the second quarter at 50-25. For a second consecutive game against the Wizards, the Heat were able to contain the Wizards’ vaunted transition attack, limiting them to just seven fast break points all game. Even more important, Miami flipped that script and had 21 fast break points of its own, 19 of those coming in the first half when it built its sizable margin.

Unlike Wednesday’s game, Miami was able to close out the job against its Southeast Division-leading rival.

“It’s huge, man,” said Whiteside about winning in Washington after losing to the Wizards just two days earlier. “[The Wizards] play great basketball. I think they’re like third in the East or something. We couldn’t wait to get back at it. After they beat us, we want to run it back. You’ll play pick-up [basketball] like, ‘Nah, run it back. Run it back.’ We got to run it back in like two days.”

Washington’s offensive effort was dreadful in the first half, and its play actually solicited a very rare chorus of boos from the supporters. The Wizards missed all 13 of their three-point attempts in the first half and shot just 29 percent (12-of-42) in the first 24 minutes.

“We didn’t make shots and we got down on ourselves,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “When we got down on ourselves, we put our heads down instead of running back and making up for it on the other end. The stats basically tell you that. They had 19 fast break points in the first half.”

The Wizards woke up from their offensive doldrums in the third, outscoring the Heat 28-16 to cut their 21-point halftime deficit to nine and set up a grandstand finish. Bradley Beal scored 14 of the Wizards points in the quarter, hitting three of his five field goals in the stanza from beyond the arc.

Washington continued to chip away at the lead despite the fact that Beal’s backcourt mate, point guard John Wall, had gone scoreless for the game’s first 42 minutes. The four-time All-Star finally scratched at the 5:25 mark, hitting a long three-pointer to cut Miami’s lead to 75-71 with 5:25 remaining.

Heat guard Dion Waiters answered back on the next possession with a three to build the lead back up to seven. A couple of minutes later, Wall hit a three to bring the Wizards to within three – only for Waiters to once again knock down a triple on the next possession, giving Miami an 89-83 lead with 56.6 seconds left.

Beal then responded with a three, and, after two Otto Porter Jr. free throws, Washington was within one point at 89-88 with 11.3 seconds remaining. Miami forward James Johnson then split a pair of free throws, giving Washington a chance to tie or take the lead on its final possession.

Beal caught the inbounds pass at the top of the arc and looked as if he was ready to launch a game-winning three. But he passed on it and drove on Heat forward Josh Richardson before stopping at the free throw line and pulling up for a jumper that eventually hit off of the front rim.

“I felt like it was a good look,” said Beal, who led all scorers with 26 points and also had 10 rebounds and four assists. “I’m still debating in my head if I should have shot the three or if I should have went to my step-back or whatever. I’m still confident in that shot and that’s a shot I make every day, so I’m a little pissed off at myself. But I’ll have another opportunity to be in that situation again and it will be a different result.”

Wall, who was playing on a sore knee, scored all eight of his points in the fourth quarter. He also chipped in with eight assists.

Johnson scored 20 points off the bench for Miami, making up for a subpar shooting performance from the backcourt of Waiters and point guard Goran Dragic, as they combined to make just seven of their 24 shots. Waiters had 13 points while Dragic had six points and seven assists.

*Editor’s note: Above the story is the photo gallery from Sunday’s game, with all photos taken by photographer Debby Wong. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 21 pictures in total.

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