Success at home was one of the major factors behind the Washington Wizards reaching the playoffs last season. Their struggles on their own court are what's costing them a chance to get back there, and the Miami Heat are looking to capitalize on another visit to the nation's capital.
The Wizards attempt to avenge one of their worst home defeats of the season Wednesday night against the Heat.
Washington (19-21) went 29-12 at home last season, and it won't be duplicating that effort. The Wizards are 9-13 there, losing five of their last six – a stretch that started with a 97-75 defeat to Miami (23-19) on Jan. 3.
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Washington was abysmal in nearly every facet while its four-game winning streak over the Heat ended. The Wizards shot 34.1 percent from the floor, converted 4 of 30 from 3-point range and were outrebounded 54-45.
Their defensive play let them down in Monday's 108-98 loss to Portland. Washington gave up 51.2 percent from the field – 54.8 from long range – and was at a 48-35 disadvantage on the glass.
“It was pretty much a lack of focus,” said guard Bradley Beal, who had 16 points and five assists.
Having Beal at full strength could help a lot. He's missed 17 of the last 20 games with a stress reaction in his right leg and is averaging 16.3 points off the bench in the three he's played.
Beal is still not cleared to start.
“It's still a process,” he said. “Still being smart with the injury. Still probably have another week or two before my minutes ramp up or whatever. I'm still listening to the doctors and trainers. I feel great after each game and during the game there's no pain so hopefully we can ramp it up.”
Beal had 21 points in a 114-103 win at Miami on Dec. 7, while John Wall poured in 26. Wall, though, could only muster 14 while going 6 for 21 from the floor against the Heat earlier this month.
He was even worse Monday, connecting on 4 of 17 from the field while finishing with nine points and 10 assists. That was a dramatic drop from his season-high 36 points two days earlier in a 119-117 loss to Boston that opened this five-game homestand.
“I was frustrated,” Wall said Monday. “I had some good looks that I had from the last game, and I wasn't making them. It was frustrating to me because I feel like I was letting my team down.”
The Heat enter a five-game trip trying to turn around their own rough stretch, losing five of six while averaging 87.8 points.
They fell 91-79 to Milwaukee on Tuesday, two days after losing 99-74 at Oklahoma City. Miami trailed by at least 22 in each of those games while shooting 39.0 percent – 25.0 from behind the arc.
“We obviously have to work on our mental toughness right now,” forward Chris Bosh said. “We're kind of weak in that area.”
Goran Dragic's absence is surely being felt. The guard, who averages 12.3 points, has missed four games with a calf injury and has no time table for a return.
Bosh scored 23 against the Wizards earlier this month, while Hassan Whiteside chipped in with 13 rebounds and six blocks.
Whiteside's 4.0 blocks per game lead the league and have him on pace to top Alonzo Mourning's franchise record of 3.9 set in 1998-99.