WASHINGTON (AP) — Hassan Whiteside wanted to make a difference beyond almost a career night offensively.
He did, and the Miami Heat left feeling more alive than ever.
Whiteside scored 30 points and blocked Bradley Beal’s 3-point attempt in the final seconds as the Heat beat the Washington Wizards 106-103 Saturday to continue their desperate playoff push. Thanks to Whiteside’s dominant performance and James Johnson’s go-ahead layup with 11 seconds left, Miami moved into a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
“These guys in the locker room right now feel alive,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You can’t pay enough money to feel like that.”
It doesn’t even matter to the Heat right now that the Chicago Bulls own the tiebreaker with them, because after an 11-30 start they will play two more meaningful games with a chance to get into the postseason. A loss at Toronto on Friday night had them feeling despondent, so Whiteside and Johnson brought them back from the brink.
Punishing the Wizards inside to the tune of 50 points in the paint, Miami’s big men delivered at each end of the court. After losing sleep and having nightmares about missing on a similar play March 28 at Detroit, Johnson beat Markieff Morris on an isolation play to put the Heat up one final time in a game with 17 lead changes.
After Washington’s Kelly Oubre Jr. threw the inbounds pass away and Josh Richardson hit two free throws to make the lead three, Spoelstra asked Whiteside for one final stop from his pick for Defensive Player of the Year.
“When a three-time NBA championship coach tells you that, it means a lot,” said Whiteside, who shot 12 of 29 and grabbed 12 rebounds. “I was just like, I want to guard whoever gets the ball and just try to make a big block for my team.”
Whiteside blocked Beal’s shot to seal the victory.
“We’re excited, but our job’s not done,” said Johnson, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. “We’re not worried about the standings. We’re worried about these next two games and taking care of that.”
The Wizards have to be worried about the standings after falling a full game back of the Raptors for third in the East.
“We’ve just got to look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out what kind of team we want to be,” said Beal, who scored 16 points. “If we want to be a hot team moving into the playoffs or are we just going to be a complacent team that’s going to be home early.”?
Heat: Goran Dragic scored 18 points after missing his first four shots … Tyler Johnson made four 3s to finish with 19 points. … Whiteside registered his 56th double-double of the season and 119th of his career, two shy of Dwyane Wade for fourth in team history. … Luke Babbitt missed his third consecutive game with a strained right hip flexor and Dion Waiters his 11th in a row with a sprained left ankle.
Wizards: Morris led the Wizards with 21 points. … Center Ian Mahinmi had 11 points and nine rebounds, coming up just short of his first double-double of the season. … Broadcasting his final home regular-season game, former Bullets star Phil Chenier got a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 20,356 and several players when shown on the video boards.
Richardson, Dragic and the Heat held Beal and John Wall to a combined 11-of-33 shooting and forced them to commit 13 turnovers.
“Josh Richardson saved us, simple as that,” Johnson said. “I’ve never seen no one defend John Wall like that, Bradley Beal like that.”
Wizards swingman Otto Porter’s 120-game ironman streak ended because of back spasms that cropped up Thursday at New York. Coach Scott Brooks said Porter’s back tightened up against the Knicks and that trainers wanted to play it safe.
“They said it’s nothing too concerning, but we just want to sit him out tonight and try to calm it down,” Brooks said.
Heat: Continue their playoff push Monday at home against the East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
Wizards: Visit the Detroit Pistons on Monday, needing to win their final two games to record the franchise’s 50-win season since 1978-79.