The Heat was little match for the likes of San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Toronto and Atlanta — NBA heavy hitters who factored into Miami’s six-game losing streak.
Perhaps the sailing won’t be quite so rough for Miami in the lower ranks.
The Heat opened a four-game trip on Saturday night with a closer-than-it-looked 114-111 victory over the Washington Wizards, giving it back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
The Wizards, like the Heat, brought a 3-8 mark into the contest. The 3-10 Philadelphia 76ers loom next on the trip for Miami on Monday night.
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The Heat sure looked like a superior unit to the one that’s struggled to find its touch, connecting on 50 percent of its shots, including 48 percent on three-pointers. The Heat entered Saturday shooting 42 percent from the field, third-worst in the league.
But the shots were falling for Miami inside Verizon Center. The 114 points were the most the Heat has scored this season.
“Much better,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the improved shooting. “We still have a long ways to go. But guys are getting more comfortable, one in their roles and two where our strengths are. So that’s a start.”
Said James Johnson, who had 17 points: “We’re going to have good scoring nights because we’ve got a lot of good scorers in this room. But we’ve got to lock in better defensively.”
The 111 points for the Wizards were the most allowed by the Heat this season.
Those shots that weren’t dropping through the nets — for either the Heat or the Wizards — were often being snatched up by Hassan Whiteside.
Whiteside, who leads the league in rebounding, didn’t haul in his first board until three minutes remained in the second quarter. But then he began gobbling them up, finishing with 18. He added 18 points to go with three blocked shots.
“He can put those rebound numbers up in a hurry,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve already seen that a couple of times.”
Said Whiteside: “I didn’t really have too many post-up opportunities. Guys aren’t really letting me catch in the post that much. But I try to effect the game in different ways. Set good screens. Get the offensive rebound.”
The Heat received balanced scoring from its starters, with all five providing double-digit scoring. Tyler Johnson was the only Heat player to suffer through a poor shooting night, going 1 for 9 from the field.
The Heat was uncharacteristically lethargic on defense during a poor first quarter in which it allowed 35 points. Wizards guard John Wall was unstoppable, dishing out six assists to go with his seven points.
But then Miami buckled down. It led by as many as 17 points in the second half before the Wizards rallied late in the fourth quarter, cutting the Heat lead to 113-108 on Wall’s three-pointer with 42 seconds left.
Wall and Bradley Beal each scored 34 points for the Wizards.
“We feel that we’re better than that defensively,” Spoelstra said. “But I tell you what, those two guys are studs. It’s a whole lot easier said than done when they’re coming at you full speed.”
▪ Heat backup center Willie Reed came out of the game in the second quarter after hyperextending his right knee. Reed said he will likely miss no more than a couple of games.