LeBron-less Heat fall big on road to Wizards
WASHINGTON (AP) — LeBron James’ only visible significant role was that of postgame heckler, interrupting Michael Beasley’s interview amid a loose, upbeat locker room that normally wouldn’t jibe with a 21-point loss — or throwing in a towel in the race for a No. 1 seed.
James and Chris Bosh took the night off Monday, and the Heat were beaten 114-93 by the Washington Wizards in a no-contest game that guaranteed the Eastern Conference’s top seed for the Indiana Pacers.
So, no disappointment at all?
"There would be no disappointment," said Dwyane Wade, who played because he needed some minutes after his recent nine-game layoff with a hamstring injury. "When the playoffs start, we have a new season and we will be looking forward to it."
So the Pacers are locked in to a first-round series against the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, while the two-time defending champion Heat get the No. 2 seed and either the Wizards or the Charlotte Bobcats. Miami began the day still in contention for the top spot, but they would have needed to win their last two games and have Indiana lose to Orlando on Wednesday because the Pacers hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Figuring it would be better to be fresh for the postseason, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra sat two of his Big Three, saying they were dealing with "minor ailments" from "the residual of a long season."
"It was out of our control. Those guys put in a lot of mileage," Spoelstra said. "Our schedule was fairly extreme down the stretch. I’ve never been a part of a group that’s played that many games in that few of days down the stretch. That’s not an excuse, but we want to just make sure our guys are sharp and feeling healthy."
James has made it part of his annual routine to rest before the playoffs. He missed the final game in 2011 and sat out the last two in both 2012 and 2013.
Trevor Ariza scored 25 points to lead the Wizards, who shot 59 percent and made 14 3-pointers and remain one game ahead of the Bobcats in the race for the No. 6 seed. Washington has made it a point to avoid finishing seventh to keep from having to face the Heat in the first round — knowing full well the cast of characters will be different than it was Monday night.
"We played against a totally different Miami Heat today than usual," Wizards center Marcin Gortat said. "Nothing to be excited about. … It was more like a scrimmage game than a big battle."
The Heat went with their 20th starting lineup of this season and trailed by as many as 36 in the second half. Beasley finished with 18 points, Toney Douglas had 14, and Wade scored nine in 18 minutes. Miami has lost four of five and is just 11-13 since March 4, including 3-9 on the road.
Gortat had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and John Wall added 13 assists for the Wizards, who have seemingly escaped their 3-point shooting slump. After going 6 for 50 from long range over a three-game span, they’ve since made 22 of 51 in their last two games. Ariza, whose shooting was hampered by a bout with the flu, made five of eight 3-pointers Monday night.
Also, Nene, who sat out the Wizards’ previous game after feeling some stiffness in his recently sprained left knee, looked more like his energetic old self as he scored 18 points off the bench.
Andre Miller supplied the game’s biggest highlight, making an overhand paint-to-paint pass to Bradley Beal that would make an NFL quarterback jealous. Beal caught the ball in stride and made the layup in one fluid motion while drawing a foul to set up a three-point play.
"It was a post route," Beal said. "The safety bit on a ball fake, so I was able to beat the corner and I got free for a touchdown. Hopefully the Redskins will pick me up."
NOTES: The Heat were also without C Greg Oden, who did not make the trip to D.C. because of a stomach virus. … The Wizards sold out for the fourth time this season.