Returning home would appear to give the Miami Heat a good chance to avoid their longest losing streak in three seasons.
The Heat will face the surging Washington Wizards during that attempt Monday night, but the Wizards haven’t faced an opponent of Miami’s caliber during their 8-1 stretch.
After a 95-88 overtime loss in Chicago on Sunday, Miami (43-17) is on the verge of dropping four in a row for the first time since a five-game skid Feb. 27-March 8, 2011. That was the Heat’s first season with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, and their last that didn’t end with an NBA championship.
Miami looked as though it might keep its skid brief after taking a 12-point lead early in the fourth quarter Sunday, but the Heat blew that advantage in less than four minutes and were outscored 9-2 in the extra period.
Dwyane Wade had 25 points while James struggled with his shooting for the second straight game. The Heat star missed 15 of 23 shots, finishing with 17 points, and is 14 of 41 (34.1 percent) from the field in his last two contests.
He also had the ball stolen from him by Jimmy Butler on Miami’s final possession in regulation.
"I dropped the ball. It’s like a double entendre," James said. "I actually dropped the ball, but I dropped the ball on my team."
James has played most of those two games without a mask meant to protect his broken nose. He’s not been cleared to take it off but said it was uncomfortable.
He shot 39.0 percent and averaged 19.3 points, 7.8 below his season mark, during the Heat’s winless three-game trip. In his most recent home game last Monday, he had a career-high 61 points on 22-of-33 shooting in a 124-107 win over Charlotte.
The Heat have won five straight on their own floor and are 24-4 there this season. They’ve won three consecutive home games against Washington, including a 103-93 victory Nov. 3 in which James, Bosh and Wade all scored 20 or more points.
The Heat, though, had a four-game win streak in the series snapped with a 114-97 defeat Jan. 15. John Wall had 25 points to lead seven players in double figures in that victory, which capped Miami’s only other three-game skid this season.
Wall had just nine points on 4-of-14 shooting Saturday, but Trevor Ariza and Bradley Beal helped lead the Wizards (33-29) to a fifth straight road victory, 114-107 against Milwaukee. Ariza had 28 points and Beal scored 23 to help keep Washington from blowing a 28-point lead.
Beal scored five straight points and Wall hit a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left to turn a three-point lead into an 11-point advantage.
"We’ve got to learn from this game," Beal said. "We’ve got a tough Miami team coming in so we definitely have to be on edge and ready to go from the jump."
The Wizards, currently fifth in the Eastern Conference, have scored at least 104 points in the last six games during their 8-1 stretch. They’ve also only beaten one team that’s above .500 in the past nine games, topping Toronto in triple overtime Feb. 27.
Washington last won six in a row on the road Dec. 6-22, 2001, the first of Michael Jordan’s two seasons with the team.
Ariza is averaging 27.3 points and shooting 63.8 percent in his first four games this month. He’s scored a combined 23 points and missed 15 of 23 shots in his two matchups with Miami this season.