MIAMI – Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said he felt good about Monday night’s game against the Washington Wizards the second forward LeBron James arrived at AmericanAirlines Arena for a walk-through.
Actually, there was no walking involved – James sprinted in, came up to every player and coach and said: “Let’s go! Let’s get ready for this game!”
Added Spoelstra: “That’s what leaders do – he takes it to heart, all the extra shooting and preparation.”
All that work and leadership paid off as James helped the Heat snap a rare three-game losing streak, beating the Washington Wizards 99-90 on Monday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
James finished with 23 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and three steals. However, he did not shoot a free throw for the second straight game, the first time that has happened since his rookie year.
“I just want him to continue to attack, and, eventually, (the free throws) will come,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not my place up here to campaign (for foul calls). I just want him doing the right things.”
James wasn’t the Heat’s only hero.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, playing on back-to-back nights despite his sore knees for just the third time in 12 opportunities this season, looked fresh in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of his 22 points.
Wade has scored more than 20 points in seven of his past eight games.
Heat forward Chris Bosh added 22 points. It was the fifth time this season that the Heat’s “Big Three” — James, Wade and Bosh — each scored 20 or more points.
“Chris was involved, LeBron was involved, and I was involved,” Wade said. “I know we needed this win after dropping three tough games on the road.”
The Heat (44-17) trail the Indiana Pacers by one game in the battle for the best record in the Eastern Conference. But the teams are tied in the loss column.
Miami has won six straight home games, but their three-game skid on the road was a bit alarming for a team of the Heat’s stature. It was only their second three-game skid of the season. Had they lost four in a row, it would have been their longest losing streak since March of 2011.
The Wizards (33-30) entered Monday having won eight of their last nine games, although only one of their victims during that stretch — Toronto — had a winning record.
Miami snapped the Wizards’ five-game road win streak. The last time Washington won six straight road games was in December of 2001.
Still, the Wizards are the only team in the NBA with more road wins (17) than home victories (16).
Washington was led Monday by center Marcin Gortat, who had 14 points and a game-high 18 rebounds.
“I think we started slow, and I personally missed a lot of easy shots,” said Gortat, who made 7-of-15 shots overall. “But we fought for 48 minutes.
“We are building habits. If you keep fighting for 48 minutes against a team like that, in Miami, hopefully it will give us something in the future against different teams.”
In addition to Gortat, shooting guard Bradley Beal had 18 points, and point guard John Wall had eight assists. However, Wall was held to seven points and had a game-high seven turnovers.
Wizards forwards Martell Webster (17 points) and Drew Gooden (15 points) played well off the bench.
As a team, Washington out-rebounded Miami 50-33. On the offensive glass, Washington had a 21-9 advantage.
“I thought our energy was good, and we moved the ball well,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “But our (18) turnovers, that was key. And we missed a lot of good looks.”
James, after two poor shooting games on the road, came out on fire, making his first three shots — all from 3-point range — in the first five minutes.
The Heat outshot the Wizards 68.8 percent to 29.0 percent in the first quarter, but the Wizards trailed only 31-23 because of the way they rebounded. Gortat had seven of the Wizards’ 11 offensive rebounds. The Heat had no offensive rebounds.
Washington played Miami to a 22-22 standoff in the second quarter. The shooting percentages were virtually even, and the Heat did a much better job controlling the boards — Washington got just two offensive boards.
James, meanwhile, showed his versatility. After shooting only 3-pointers — and not missing — in the first period, James went exclusively inside the arc in the second. At one point, he scored 10 straight Heat points and finished the half with 19.
The Heat led 53-45 at halftime, but the Wizards surged ahead with a 23-11 third-quarter run. The Heat — even though James was held to two points in the quarter — responded, and the teams headed to the fourth tied 73-73.
NOTES: The Heat rested backup C Greg Oden (knees) on Monday. … Heat F LeBron James, one of the most efficient players in the league, shot just 14-of-41 in Miami’s past two road games, San Antonio and Chicago. … Wizards C Marcin Gortat, a 6-foot-11, 240-pounder, told TrueHoop he believes the NBA should act more like the NHL and allow players to fight for 15 to 20 seconds before referees can break it up. … Heat G DeAndre Liggins played for Sioux Falls on Sunday in the NBA’s Development League but was back with Miami on Monday. … Up next, the Wizards return home to face Charlotte on Wednesday. … The Heat’s four-game homestand continues with Brooklyn on Wednesday, Denver on Friday and Houston on Sunday.
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