Still in the Fight (Heat at Wizards; 04.07.23)

Rodney Pierce/ALOST

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

WASHINGTON — The last couple of months turned the Washington Wizards’ season from one that appeared to have some promise into another year of disappointment — and another season without a playoff appearance. In such situations, teams make sure to show fight until the very end of the season, and that is what the shorthanded Wizards did on Friday in officially keeping its opponent out of the NBA playoff picture for the time being.

Daniel Gafford scored 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds while Corey Kispert chipped in with 19 points as the Wizards defeated the Miami Heat 114-108 inside Capital One Arena on Friday night. Jordan Goodwin added 16 points for Washington, who was playing without stars Bradley Beal, Kristaps Porzingis and Kyle Kuzma, all due to injury. The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Wizards, who will miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season and for the fourth time in their last five seasons.

“It’s good to see them celebrate each other even when it’s not going well,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “To offer words of encouragement. To try to breathe life or confidence in certain guys. It goes a long way.”

Miami’s defeat clinches a No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, meaning it will play in the NBA Play-In Tournament and attempt to make the NBA Playoffs in that fashion. Last season, the Heat were the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and played in Game 7 of the conference finals before losing at home to the Boston Celtics.

“This is our reality, and you have to embrace that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This is a totally new experience for all of us. It’s not exactly where we wanted to be heading into this season, going back to training camp. But that is totally irrelevant. We have this in front of us and it’s competition. It’s great competition with a lot at stake.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s game, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Rodney Pierce. 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 26 pictures in total.

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