Heat sew up home-court advantage
While LeBron James and Dwyane Wade chilled at the end of the bench — and with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem also out of the lineup — the Miami Heat's B-squad on Wednesday night set a franchise record for 3-point attempts, broke the franchise record for victories in a season and clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
So, here's the matter for debate. If they can beat the Washington Wizards — a lottery team trying to finish ninth — how would the what-was-left-over of the Heat rank among all NBA teams?
''Most definitely we would be a playoff team,'' said Rashard Lewis, who scored 17 points in Wednesday's 103-98 win. ''Probably not a top-three team, but I think anywhere from there we'd be fighting for a playoff spot, just because we've got a lot of veterans on the team, a lot of smart guys on the team that know how to play the game.''
Lewis must have been dreaming when he said that. At least that's how Washington's Martell Webster felt.
''Then he woke up, right?'' Webster said. ''Honestly, no. We should have blown that team out, to tell you the truth.''
The Heat committed a season-high 25 turnovers and chucked up the ball AAU-style, shooting 41 3-pointers and making 17. Still, that was enough to get the win that assures they'll finish better than the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs.
The Heat, who have won four straight, also reached 62 wins for the first time, moving one ahead of the 1996-97 team.
''It does mean something to us in that locker room,'' coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''We haven't been here before as a franchise. It's a minor thing. We want to keep the main thing, the main thing. But at the same time it is a nice accomplishment.
''The home court, we have it. But we don't want to be afraid of it.''
''You can't be afraid of success,'' Spoelstra said. ''We've had a target on our back all year, and in the playoffs, that's the way it should be. ... They had to earn that home court, and so they'll have to prove it when they get there.''
Ray Allen scored 23 points, leading five Heat players in double figures. A.J. Price tied a career high with 23 points, and John Wall had 17 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for the Wizards, who had won nine straight at home.
James (right hamstring) and Wade (sprained ankle and bruised knee) watched the game looking like two guys sitting at a bus stop, Bosh stayed home and missed a third straight game with flu-like symptoms, and Haslem got the night off because of a sore right ankle.
James played in Tuesday night's 94-83 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks, but the Heat are playing it safe with the reigning league MVP.
''Not a setback,'' Spoelstra said. ''Want to make sure he feels right. He was a little bit tight yesterday after the game.''
Wade missed his sixth consecutive game. Haslem sat out after recording his first double-double of the season on Tuesday. He said he felt a pain when he planted while chasing a rebound, but he doesn't expect to be sidelined for long.
''I don't want it to be a situation where I go into the playoffs with something nagging,'' Haslem said.
The absence of the big names gave the game a low-key, exhibition feel. The Heat committed 11 turnovers in the first quarter, yet still had a three-point lead. Miami finished with more 3-pointers (17) than 2-pointers (16).
Neither team led by double digits until the Heat went ahead 98-88 with 2:53 remaining, with a three-point play and a 3-pointer by Allen keying the decisive run.
The game fit a recent Wizards pattern of playing to the level of their competition.
''I don't know if we've beat a team this year that's had their main guys out,'' coach Randy Wittman said. ''That's got to be remedied somehow.''
Notes: Webster left in the third quarter with an abdominal strain. ''It's super-sore. ... It's one of those times where you've got to shut it down,'' said Webster, although he didn't rule out returning for the final games of the season. ... Washington's Trevor Ariza missed his second straight game with a sore left knee. ... Wall was whistled twice for traveling in the first half, leading to a conversation with official Olandis Poole. ''I asked him what's the difference from now and the first two years you called me, and he didn't explain it to me,'' Wall said. ''So hopefully I don't have him for a while.'' ... The Wizards' pursuit of ninth place has been ridiculed, but Wittman noted it seemed unlikely when the team was 4-28. ''What do you want to aim for?'' Wittman said. ''Eighty wins, when you're 4-28?'' ... Miami improved to 14-1 on the second night of back-to-backs.