MIAMI — It was embarrassing, and the Miami Heat knew it.
The Heat last week lost to the downtrodden Washington Wizards, who had come into the game having had just slightly more success than the Washington Generals. But, fortunately for the Heat, the schedule makers allowed to Miami to quickly get some revenge.
“We take our games very seriously,” Heat forward LeBron James said after Saturday night’s 102-72 drubbing of Washington at AmericanAirlines Arena. “Any team that beat us, we want a little get back, and we were able to take care of business.”
How serious was James? En route to a game-high 23 points, he outscored the Wizards by himself in the third quarter, 13-10. With Miami (15-6) up 76-49, he wasn’t needed in the fourth quarter, as the likes of Dexter Pittman and James Jones played out the final minutes since there is no mercy rule in the NBA.
The Wizards dropped to 3-18, but they still have their swagger. Well, at least guard Bradley Beal still does.
“We still play them two more times, so we get an opportunity to be able to come back and get two wins out of them,” said Beal, a rookie from Florida who had a team-high 19 points in his first NBA game in the state.
Washington actually had beaten the Heat three straight times. But the previous two wins came in the final week of last season when Miami rested players, including James, in getting ready for the playoffs.
As for Dec. 4 in Washington, when the score was 105-101, that was a real win for the Wizards. But the Heat exacted revenge.
“We got our tails kicked,” Washington coach Randy Wittman said of Saturday’s rematch.
The Wizards were without injured big man Nene and point guard John Wall, who has been out all season. But not that it really mattered against a Miami outfit that was determined to have a fast start after being mostly slow out of the gates in losing three of their previous five games. The Heat did just that in taking a 26-14 first-quarter lead after an emotional scene before the game.
The Heat held a moment of silence to honor the 26 victims, 20 of them of children, of Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut. Guard Dwyane Wade had suggested Miami players with kids bring them onto the court for the moment. Wade, James, Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis all did that.
“I made sure my kids put their hands around their hearts and prayed for the families that were affected by this tragedy,” Wade said of having sons Zaire and Zion with him.
Some of the credit for Miami’s hot start must go to a guy who hasn’t done much this season. Forward Udonis Haslem drilled a pair of early jumpers as the Heat took a 12-4 lead.
Haslem finished 6-of-7 from the field for 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 24 minutes. Haslem, who has struggled all season from the outside, hit four shots 15 feet or longer.
“UD felt like for himself he hasn’t lived up to what he’s capable of doing,” James, who had 10 rebounds, said of Haslem having entered the game averaging a career-low 3.7 points.
Turns out Haslem had been doing some homework to figure out what was wrong.
“It’s just all about getting comfortable. I went back and watched some film on my shots in previous years and I found myself leaning a little bit to the left,” said Haslem, who doesn’t know if surgery on his left foot two years ago might have had anything to do with it.
But Heat coach Erik Spoelstra hasn’t lost confidence in Haslem, having started him in the last four games he has played (he missed one during the stretch with the flu). Having gone to the bench is sharpshooter Shane Battier.
“Easy. Easy,” Battier quipped when he was asked lightheartedly if Haslem has replaced Battier due to the former’s impressive outside shooting.
But Haslem wasn’t the only one shooting well Saturday. With James going 8-of-15, Wade 5-of-8, Bosh 5-of-7 and Mario Chalmers 4-of-8, all of the starters shot 50 percent or better. Starters combined to shoot 62.2 percent with Miami as a team at 50.6 percent.
The Heat also were impressive on defense. They held the Wizards to 37.5 percent marksmanship, including 28.6 percent in the first quarter.
“We talked about it before the game, and it’s about time that we started becoming more consistent on defense,” Bosh said.
Playing the Wizards the week after the embarrassing loss in Washington was a good place to start.