One night after losing to the NBA’s worst team, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat found themselves struggling against the lowly Washington Wizards – even after No. 1 overall draft pick John Wall was ejected for a second-quarter scuffle.
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Wall was ”disappointed” in himself for leaving his team without its top player after he took a swing in reaction to getting elbowed. The other two players kicked out – Miami reserves Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard – didn’t speak to reporters after the Heat pulled away late for a 123-107 victory Wednesday night.
So it was left to James to provide the visitors’ perspective.
”What did I see? I see two guys trying to be aggressive and things got out of hand, but it’s part of the game,” James said. ”Elbows is part of the game.”
James finished with 35 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, Wade had 33 points and nine assists, and Chris Bosh scored 26, helping Miami avoid what would have been a second consecutive embarrassing loss.
The Heat led by a dozen before halftime, but the Wizards managed to make it a one-point game in the fourth quarter, at 91-90 on Jordan Crawford’s 3 with 9 1/2 minutes left.
Wade immediately responded with a three-point play, and Washington never again got closer than two.
”We took two steps backwards last night,” James said, ”and we took a step forward tonight, and we have to continue that.”
On Tuesday night, the Heat were beaten 102-90 at Cleveland against James’ former team, the NBA-worst Cavaliers. He skipped pregame introductions at Cleveland, but was on the court Wednesday when his name was announced – and was greeted by boos.
Those only got louder when he was whistled for a technical foul for talking to an official after getting fouled on a breakaway in the fourth quarter.
James complained later that Washington’s Maurice Evans should have been called for a flagrant foul.
”I don’t know if Mo Evans intentionally wants to be dirty. I watch a lot of basketball. I see a lot of basketball every day, and anytime when someone gets grabbed around the neck, it’s an automatic flagrant-1. If I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong,” James said. ”Sometimes it’s unfair, because of how strong I am, you know. I can take the punishment of course, but at the same time, I think it’s unfair sometimes.”
That play was nothing compared to the brouhaha that came with 8:48 remaining in the first half – and with Washington actually ahead, 37-36.
The 6-foot-4 Wall moved out to play tight defense on 7-3 center Ilgauskas near the 3-point arc. While protecting the ball, Ilgauskas appeared to elbow Wall in the face at least once. Wall responded by swinging his right hand at Ilgauskas.
”Got hit by the elbow and reacted to it. Disappointed in the way I reacted. I let my teammates down, let the organization down,” Wall said. ”It was two elbows. I got hit with the first one; I stopped and waited. And the second one, I got hit, and I just reacted.”
As officials went to intervene, Wizards center JaVale McGee arrived to separate Wall and Ilgauskas and was pushed away by Heat backup forward Howard. At the same time, Wizards coach Flip Saunders left the sideline and stepped on the court to try to pull away McGee, then exchanged words with Howard.
”We both just kind of asked where are we going to go out for dinner after the game,” Saunders said.
McGee’s take: ”Ilgauskas tried to punk (Wall), hit him in the face with his elbow. Obviously, (Wall) wasn’t going for it. … I went over there to break it up, and Juwan Howard tried to come over and blind-side, push me, or whatever.”
The game was delayed by more than 10 minutes while officials huddled around a TV to watch replays. Eventually, Wall and Ilgauskas each was assessed a flagrant foul-2 and ejected. Howard was called for a technical foul and ejected for escalation; McGee was called for a technical but allowed to stay in the game.
Wall high-fived fans as he walked from the court to the home locker room, ejected for the second time from an NBA game. It also happened Feb. 4, when he was called for two technical fouls in a loss to the Orlando Magic.
Crawford – like Wall, a rookie – took over at point guard and wound up scoring 39 points, 12 more than his previous career high.
”Jordan continues to impress and amaze,” Saunders said. ”Whatever you ask him to do, whatever responsibility, he has no fear.”
Miami’s trio of stars, meanwhile, combined for 94 of its points, helping the Southeast Division leader squeak by against one of the league’s most downtrodden teams, the 18-56 Wizards.
”It’s physical. That’s fine. We’re not running away from that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ”When the dust settles, it becomes about a basketball game.”
NOTES: Asked who he thinks is the favorite for NBA MVP, James replied: ”I think Derrick Rose definitely is the leader.” … Heat F Mike Miller sat out a second consecutive game with a bruised left knee.