Five takeaways from the Heat’s 117-113 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night that cost Miami a chance to gain ground and improve its potential playoff seeding.
1. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has absolute faith in Dwyane Wade taking the decisive shot in a game even now at age 36 in his second stint with in Miami. Wade rescued the Heat with a key assist and later a three-point play that erased what was a five-point Wizards lead with 1:23 to go in the game and forced overtime.
With the Heat trailing 114-110 with 22 seconds left in the extra period, Wade drew a foul on a three-point attempt and hit all three foul shots to pull Miami within a point. But with 4.1 seconds and the Heat down by two, Wade’s floater from just outside the restricted area bounced off the rim and Kelly Olynyk’s putback with 1.8 to go also missed ending the Heat’s chances to pull off the comeback win.
"I’ll say this always, I'll go to my grave -- and I will go to my grave -- with Dwyane Wade shooting with the game on the line," Spoelstra said.
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Wade, who returned to the Heat on Feb. 8 after being traded from Cleveland, finished with a team-high 22 points on 8 of 18 shooting in 28 minutes and 16 seconds on Tuesday night.
But his final shot missed the mark after a tough contest by Wizards forward Markieff Morris.
"D-Wade is a Hall of Famer," Morris said. "It might have got away from him. I don’t think I made him miss, but made him change the look on his shot. I just so happened to see Tomas [Satoransky] go for the fake and just crashed out."
Wade found Josh Richardson for one of his six assists when Richardson drove and scored with 52.2 seconds left to cut Washington’s lead to 105-102. After a Wizards miss, Wade pushed the ball up the court, drove and scored, drawing a foul on Bradley Beal. Wade hit the free throw to tie the game at 105 with 22.8 seconds left.
"I have always believed in that man," Spoelstra said. "It's like that country song, ‘I'm not as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was.’ And I truly believe that about Dwyane. He might not be able to play the role that he did for us in 2008 and 2009, playing 40 minutes and then I would ask him to play the best player and defend on the other end, as well. But for 20 to 25 minutes, I think he can be every bit of who he used to be, just in compact minutes."
2. Heat’s second unit gives them a chance after terrible start. The Heat looked like a team playing the second of back-to-back games in the first quarter as the Wizards jumped out to a 27-9 lead with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
The Heat went to its bench and the unit comprised of Wade, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Justise Winslow and Rodney McGruder answered with a 17-4 run to end the period and make it a relatively close game the rest of the way.
That five-man lineup had only played 11.6 minutes in the Heat’s previous game but scored 31 points during that time.
The Heat’s bench scored 64 of its 113 points.
"Just the passion and the energy, the defense, that activity," Spoelstra said. "It wasn’t as if they did everything perfect, but there was a great passion, guys were really laying out there for each other. But again a team like this, when you're in a playoff-type game, there have to be meaningful minutes from everybody in the rotation. We weren't able to get off to a good start, but we got back in the game and we made it a game, and who cares? At that point, you just have to find a way to gut it out and find a way to win and we weren't able to do that."
3. Tyler Johnson is looking like Tyler Johnson again. Playing in his second game since coming back after missing a couple of games with a left quad contusion, Johnson poured in 21 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals in 38 minutes and 29 seconds.
Johnson attacked the rim early and often and moved well in transition appearing to be fully healthy and able to create more shots as he did prior to his quad and ankle injuries.
Johnson played only 18 minutes in the Heat’s blowout win Monday against the Suns, but said toward the end of that game is when he finally felt like himself again.
"I thought in the fourth quarter of the Phoenix game I started feel back to being myself," Johnson said. "It was kind of a lopsided game so it was a little bit different, but at the same time, I didn’t feel it when I was running and jumping and I wasn’t thinking about it today going in. As long as I’m not thinking about it, I’m kind of over it."
4. The Wizards, one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league, opened the game hot and sank the Heat late. Washington entered the game ranked sixth in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage. Led by Bradley Beal’s game-high 30 points and 6 of 7 threes, the Wizards shot 50.6 percent for the game and went 14 of 24 from three.
"I think in the first [quarter] especially the starters we gave them too much open space," Goran Dragic said. "They really moved the ball well and they found the open guys. I think the main defense we didn’t play to our identity and they were the more physical team."
5. If the Heat doesn’t close the week with a couple of wins, it’s going to be a lot harder to climb the ladder and really improve its potential playoff seeding. Despite the loss to Washington, the Heat still has a seemingly comfortable 4½-game lead over the Detroit Pistons – Miami’s closest pursuer for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
But the loss dropped the Heat to three games behind the Wizards and two games behind the Sixers. The Heat plays its final games against both at home later this week taking on Philadelphia on Thursday and Washington on Saturday. The Heat needs a win against each to avoid losing the tiebreaker with each team as well as both have a 2-1 lead in the season series.
"It’s very competitive, no doubt," Spoelstra said. "So we'll have another opportunity with these guys back in Miami in a few days, but we have another big one before that. So we can't even think about that. But there's so many evenly matched teams and that's why some of these, a lot of these games are going down to the end."