Dwyane Wade and LeBron James waltzed into Verizon Center about 45 minutes before tipoff on Wednesday. These are the spoils of clinching the top seed of the Eastern Conference with more than three weeks left in the regular season.
For nearly two weeks now, the Heat has rested its various stars in preparation for the playoffs. Wednesday was no different with Wade missing his sixth game in a row and James sitting out his fourth game during that span. Udonis Haslem also did not play.
Despite so many players out of the game and his normal rotations nonexistent, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said maintaining the Heat’s core offensive and defensive values were still important.
“We still want to play with the right amount of space,” Spoelstra said. “The pacing is critical now and the ball’s got to move.”
Wade has missed game with a sore ankle and knee and James’ injury is a tight hamstring. Haslem rested with a sore right ankle. He had 15 rebounds in the Heat’s victory against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday.
“The staff just said it would probably be best just to rest a day,” Haslem said. “I haven’t give it much rest, you know, just continue play and play and play.”
To promote healing, Haslem soaked his ankles in large buckets of ice water before the game and also stimulated his left hamstring with small doses of electricity.
Overall, Haslem said he was “fine” and plans to only sit out one game.
“It’s just a couple little things here and there,” Haslem said. “I just don’t want to be in a situation where I go into the playoffs with something nagging. So, we just want to have all cylinders firing and everyone as healthy as possible.”
With Haslem being a late scratch, Heat center Joel Anthony was added to the starting lineup before the game. It was Anthony’s second start of the season. Also in the starting lineup were Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis and Shane Battier.
Is Wizards point guard John Wall the fastest player in the league? He coach Erik Spoelstra thinks so.
“You can make a case for it,” Spoelstra said.
The Wizards entered Wednesday’s game 24-21 since Wall returned from a knee injury that forced him to miss the beginning of the season. That’s good for the fifth record in the Eastern Conference during the same timeframe. With Wall out, the Wizards began the season 5-28.
“John Wall has clearly changed the dynamic of this team,” Spoelstra said.
For competitive balance in the Southeast Division, that’s a positive sign for the future. The Heat ran away with the division (and the conference) this season. Miami clinched the division title way back on March 18 with 16 games left in the regular season.
Wall is averaging more than 18 points per game to go along with 7.5 assists and 3.9 rebounds. Washington averaged 89.2 points per game without Wall and has averaged 94.3 points per game since his returned to action.