In a season of bizarre twists, the Heat’s loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday will be remembered for its acute weirdness.
Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade both missed the game with injuries, and Goran Dragic left the court with a back injury in the third quarter. Despite all that, the Heat cut a 35-point lead for the Wizards to a single point, but then lost the game 99-97 when Michael Beasley couldn’t get off a shot with 1.3 seconds left.
Beasley caught the inbounds pass and appeared to be open for a quick catch-and-shoot. He instead put the ball on the court, and time expired before he could get off a shot. Beasley confirmed after the game that he knew how much time was on the clock after the Heat came out of its timeout with a chance to win the game.
“That was just lack of experience,” said Beasley, who consulted with Wade after the game about the play. “I was just so anxious to get the last shot and do great for my team that I just had a brain cramp. That was my fault.”
Beasley had a great fourth quarter until the very end. He scored 13 points in the period, and forced a key turnover to put the Heat in position to take the lead with 21.3 seconds left. The Heat failed to capitalize on the defensive play, though, when Henry Walker missed a three-pointer from the corner with five seconds to play.
Wizards guard Bradley Beal then made 1 of 2 free throws to put Washington ahead 99-97 with 1.3 seconds left.
The Heat (27-34) is now in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
“It hurts, but we showed a lot,” Beasley said of the near comeback. “We could have literally went out there and lost by 100 points … but it clicked for us, man. We didn’t want to go out like that, and I feel that’s the perfect way to start the rest of my season.”
All of Beasley’s points came in the fourth quarter, but it was Dragic and guard Shabazz Napier who did the heavy lifting in the third quarter to give the Heat a chance. Dragic had 12 points in the quarter before his injury, and Napier had nine points on three consecutive three-pointers. The Heat trailed 67-39 after halftime, but outscored the Wizards 34-21 in the third quarter and 24-11 in the final period.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the third-quarter comeback “wasn’t even about the scoreboard at that point.”
“It was about trying to reveal your collective character,” he said. “That is all that was. You get tested — your character — and your level of competition every single night in this league.”
Spoelstra’s emphasis on character came on a night when Heat center Hassan Whiteside was pulled from the game in the first quarter, spent noticeable stretches sulking at the end of the bench and then played less than five minutes in the second half. He didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 10 points and two rebounds.
“I played the way I always play,” Whiteside said. “They weren’t missing any shots when I was in, so there wasn’t that much to rebound. I was playing like I normally play.”
Spoelstra cautioned against looking too much into Whiteside’s lack of playing time in crunch time and his oddly difficult disposition during an important game.
“How dramatic can you be right now?” Spoelstra said when asked about possible concerns regarding Whiteside’s character. “You’re looking way too much into that instead of the game that was going on. He was very good in the last game, and he has an opportunity to get after it [Saturday] night.”
Dragic left the game at the end of the third quarter after falling hard on his lower back. He tried to continue but had to check himself out of the game. He was then taken to the locker room and said after game that his back “just locked up.”
He seems doubtful for Saturday’s home game against the Sacramento Kings. Dragic injured the right side of his back last week.
“Now in one week it’s the other side,” Dragic said. “So I don’t know. Hopefully, through the night I’ll try to put ice, and we’ll see [Saturday]. It’s an important game.”
▪ Dragic would like to remain in Miami after this season but reiterated Friday that he is officially leaving his options open. The point guard has a player option for next season but will decline it to become a free agent.
“I feel really comfortable here, so for sure this is one of the main options,” Dragic said.
Dragic is expected to command a max contract next season, and the Heat, who hold Dragic’s Bird Rights, is the only team who can offer him a five-year deal. Dragic is still living at a hotel during the season but indicated he plans on finding a permanent home in the offseason.
“I’m waiting on my wife to come,” Dragic said. “She’s going to figure that out.”
▪ Spoelstra pulled Whiteside out of the game in the first quarter after a series of questionable shots and a lack inside presence against Wizards center Marcin Gortat. The Heat’s coach then walked to the end of the bench and spoke with Whiteside for several seconds. Whiteside returned in the second quarter and finished the half with eight points and one rebound.
▪ Whiteside received a technical foul in the first half after swinging his elbow at Gortat following a play under the rim. The Heat’s center now has eight technical fouls, and the total price of his fines is up to $36,000. Whiteside has received a technical foul in each of his past three games and was ejected against the Suns on Monday.