Drama of the magnitude seen on Saturday at Verizon Center does not often happen when the Wizards are involved.
First, Gilbert Arenas, the enigmatic scorer and chaotic former face of the franchise (hello John Wall) gets traded to Orlando. Then the feel-good story of beating LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the Heat after the histrionics of the afternoon gets snapped away in the final seconds as Washington blows a five-point lead with 18.4 seconds left to lose to Miami 95-94.
What it boils down to is that the young Wizards really have no idea how to close out a game.
And the Heat do.
“Get down the stretch and we did just about everything that you have to do wrong to lose a game and they did everything right,” head coach Flip Saunders said.
That just about sums it up.
Washington was in tenuous control over Miami for much of the game. The game was a see-saw that the Heat were never able to quite balance in their favor until the final seconds. The Wizards would go up by six or eight only to have Miami climb back to tie it before Washington would do it again. It looked like Washington had finally gotten the better of the Heat in the fourth period, jumping out to an 80-72 lead, a margin they would hold more or less until the final two minutes or so.
Then, as it so often is in the NBA, the drama started.
The Heat chipped away to the point where they were only down by three after a big Lebron James (32 points, seven rebounds, six assists) dunk. After missed jumper by Andray Blatch, Miami’s next trip down the court Wade missed a three-pointer that was rebounded by Nick Young with 53.8 seconds left. Josh Howard would score on a jump shot and it seemed that the Wizards would actually put the Heat away, up 91-86 with 32.6 seconds remaining.
Then Chris Bosh went to town.
More accurately, the Blatche wholly enabled him to do so.
First he hit a three pointer from the top of the key to make it 91-89 with a white Washington jersey nary in sight. Washington went the other way where Howard was fouled, missed the second of his free throws but was able to pull down his own rebound and go to the line again. This is where the Wizards figured they had it. Make a couple free throws, put the game away, call Gilbert for a beer before he gets on the plane to Orlando and walk away sweet as pie.
“What happens so much. We hate to see it but you can’t make an excuse on things that cost you games,” Saunders said. “Especially when you are playing them, it is not over till its over. They got two of the best closers in the game as far as LeBron and Dwayne.”
Yeah, about those free throws.
Blatche fouled Bosh shooting a three from the top of the key, more or less just plowing into the Heat forward, waving his arms. Bosh hit two of three and (to make it 91-93) and on the ensuing inbounds pass Nick Young got stuck in his own corner, lost the ball and ended up fouling Miami’s James Jones. Jones, who is an 86.2 percent free throw shooter, would of course hit both his attempts to tie it.
Kirk Hinrich couldn’t put the Heat away on the Wizard’s next possession, also hitting one of two free throws to make it 94-93.
But everyone in the building just knew that this was not going to end well. Not with the young hack jobs on the floor for the home team.
It was Blatche with the slash, again. This time on Wade, a man who knows how to finish a game. Wade sunk both, 95-94, and the it was a done deal.
“They come down the stretch and they hit six free throws in the last 25 seconds and we come up and we miss three. We missed three that was important,” Saunders said.
There were things to like about the Wizards’ performance. Young, who general manager Ernie Grunfeld said before the game in addressing the Arenas trade would get a long look, went for 30 points and four rebounds. Blatche went for 20 points and 12 rebounds, good totals mitigated by his bone-headed plays in the final minute. Overall five Wizards scored double figures (Al Thornton had 10, Howard and Hinrich both had 13).
Keep in mind that the Heat were on the second half of a back-to-back after an emotional game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Friday, so the odds of Washington beating Miami were higher than they would have been all things being equal. It would have been a great win for the Wizards but learning how claim victories is a skill that needs to be learned.
And the Heat just taught the Wizards a lesson.
Notes: John Wall is still out with right-knee tendonitis. With the loss, the Capitals, Wizards and Redskins have two wins against 18 losses as a collective sum.