MIAMI — Every day, it seems, John Wall silences more doubters.
On Friday night, Wall continued to build his case as perhaps the best point guard in the Eastern Conference, producing 20 points and 10 assists for his 16th double-double of the season.
His contribution helped the Washington Wizards win their sixth straight game, defeating the Miami Heat 105-103 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I think his maturity has taken a huge leap this year in terms of leadership,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said of the 24-year-old Wall. “It’s not just what he’s doing on the floor but the locker room and being one of the best practice players.”
He’s a pretty good game-day player, too.
Wall, who leads all Eastern Conference point guards with 10.6 assists per game, was involved in the game’s defining moments.
With less than two minutes left and the score tied 95-95, Wall drove to the basket, drawing the attention of three Heat defenders.
When his layup barely spun off the rim, Wizards forward Paul Pierce — left alone by Heat defenders intent on stopping Wall — raced to the rim for an easy tip-in with 1:31 left.
After Heat point guard Mario Chalmers was called for an offensive foul, Wall’s mid-range jumper with 61 seconds left put Washington up 99-95, and the Wizards coasted from there.
The Wizards (19-6) now lead the idle Atlanta Hawks by one game in the Southeast Division. Miami (12-15), which has lost five straight home games for the first time since March 2008, is in third place, eight games back.
Washington is 10-1 in its past 11 games.
Wall, who tied forward Nene for the team high in points, made 6 of 10 shots from the field and 8 of 10 from the foul line in an efficient 38 minutes.
Not that Wall was satisfied.
“They (the Heat) did a good job of not letting me get into the open court,” Wall said. “I only made six shots all game. … When you are taking the ball out (after Miami field goals), it’s hard to get into a flow.”
If Wall wasn’t completely happy, things were far worse in the Heat locker room. Miami has lost eight of its past nine home games.
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who scored 70 points combined in his past two games, had 28 on Friday to lead Miami. Heat forward Luol Deng added 19 points.
“I have been playing better of late and the guys have been playing better,” Wade said of his teammates. “But when it doesn’t (result) in a win, it’s tough.”
The Heat lost despite outshooting the Wizards from the floor (53.3 percent to 49.4 percent). Miami was also better on 3-pointers — 9 of 19 for 47.4 percent to Washington’s 3 of 14 (21.4 percent).
But Washington was plus-six on turnovers, plus-two on rebounds and plus-10 on free throws made.
“Until (injured forward Chris Bosh) gets back, we just have to hold the fort,” Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Early on, the game swung back and forth. There were 12 lead changes in the first quarter and Washington emerged with a 29-25 lead.
Miami roared back in the second quarter, shooting 80 percent from the field (12 of 15. That was the Heat’s best shooting performance in any quarter this season, and it gave them a 55-54 halftime lead.
Despite cooling off in the third quarter — the Heat shot 36.4 percent to Washington’s 50 percent — Miami led 79-76.
That set the stage for Wall, who scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Wall, the NBA’s No. 1 overall pick in 2010, was a first-time All-Star last season. And after the Boston Celtics on Friday officially traded Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks of the Western Conference, Wall’s status as the East’s leader in assists can no longer be denied.
Sure, Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls is still in the East. But his numbers don’t stack up with those of Wall, who is averaging 17.8 points with an assists-to-turnover ratio of 2.71.
Wall, though, is focused on team goals — not individual ones.
“We want to be a good team,” Wall said. “We know it’s early in the season, but nobody thought we’d be here (first place). We have the ultimate goal of trying to get to the NBA Finals.”
NOTES: Washington, the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, is off to its best start in 36 years. … Washington SF Paul Pierce started after missing one game with a toe injury. … Because of injuries, Miami used its 12th different starting lineup. … The Heat’s projected starting lineup has been together for just 34 minutes all season — PG Norris Cole, SG Dwyane Wade, SF Luol Deng, PF Chris Bosh and PF Josh McRoberts. Bosh (calf) is likely out for two more weeks. McRoberts (knee) is likely out for the season. … Heat C Chris “Birdman” Andersen started his second straight game and his second of the season. Heat SF Shawne Williams returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 1. He came off the bench in the past nine games. … Up next, Washington returns home to play Phoenix on Sunday. Miami remains home to play Boston on Sunday.
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