WASHINGTON (AP) — The Miami Heat opted for rest for LeBron James and Chris Bosh over the pursuit of the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and the Washington Wizards capitalized in a 114-93 breeze of a game Monday night that clinched the No. 1 seed for the Indiana Pacers.
Trevor Ariza scored 25 points for the Wizards, who shot 59 percent and made 14 3-pointers to move 1½ games ahead of the Charlotte Bobcats in the race for the East’s No. 6 seed. Washington would secure sixth place if the Bobcats lost at Atlanta later Monday, thus avoiding the Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
Michael Beasley scored 18 points for the Heat, and Toney Douglas had 14 for the two-time defending champs, who will be the No. 2 seed when the playoffs begin this weekend.
The Heat 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 James and Bosh, saying they were dealing with “the residual of a long season.”
“Just where we are right now, (James is) dealing with some minor ailments,” Spoelstra said. “Nothing that’s significant enough that will keep him out. Same thing with Chris. We made this decision and everyone else is ready to go. Everything is day by day.”
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.
The Heat went with their 20th starting lineup this season and trailed by as many as 36 in the second half. Dwyane Wade, who needs the work after returning Sunday from a sore right hamstring that cost him nine games, started and scored nine points in 18 minutes.
The Heat have lost four of five. Miami is just 11-13 since March 4, including 3-9 on the road.
Marcin Gortat had 10 points and 13 rebounds, and John Wall added 13 assists for the Wizards, who have been hot and cold down the stretch but at least have found a way to escape 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 5 of 8 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.
Nene converted back-to-back three-point plays in the second quarter to give the Wizards their first 10-point lead, overpowering Chris Anderson with a baseline move on the first one and taking a nice feed from Andre Miller to set up the second.
Miller supplied the game’s biggest highlight, making an overhand paint-to-paint pass to Beal that would make an NFL quarterback jealous. Miller hit Beal in stride as if it were a post pattern, and Beal made the layup in one fluid motion while drawing a foul to get a three-point play.
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.
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