WASHINGTON (The Sports Xchange) — The Miami Heat ran away from the Washington Wizards during a defensively dominant first half.
Center Hassan Whiteside lorded over all without scoring a point. Eventually the 7-footer joined the scoring column, but it was his shot blocking and intimidating presence that stole the show in the 97-75 romp.
Presented with the notion that the defense-first, offense-light half was his big man’s best of the season, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra laughed.
“Tell him that,” Spoelstra said. “I say that in jest because he was fantastic.”
Forward Chris Bosh scored 23 points and guard Goran Dragic scored 18 points in Miami’s second straight win. The postgame discussion with the Heat (20-13) and Wizards focused on what happened on the other end of the court.
Whiteside only scored six points, but blocked six shots and altered numerous others while grabbing 13 rebounds. The Heat took control in the second quarter by outscoring the clanking Wizards 25-7.
With Whiteside contending shots near and far, Washington didn’t score for the final 5:35 of the period while shooting 2 of 22 (9.0 percent) from the field. The Wizards shot 34.1 percent overall and set season lows for points in a half and game.
Guard John Wall had 14 points on 6 of 21 shooting for the Wizards (15-17). Washington has lost three of four after winning four straight.
“Hassan Whiteside was incredible,” said veteran center Marcin Gortat, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds and multiple shots blocked by Whiteside. “I personally haven’t seen (as good) shot blocker in (my) nine years.”
The dismal offensive display was a reversal from the previous meeting with the Heat this season. The Wizards won the season series opener 114-103 on Dec. 7 in Miami.
Spoelstra stated the team’s defense dipped earlier in the season with the home loss against Washington “one of the turning points. … it was a major storyline, it was a lightning-rod game.”
The Wizards pulled away in the December meeting with a small-ball lineup. Miami countered by sitting Whiteside the entire fourth quarter. Discussions followed and the big man convinced his coach he could guard small players. That facet of his game showed whenever a defensive switch put him on Wall or another member of Washington’s backcourt.
“I’m different,” Whiteside said. “I’m built different from all the other 7-footers I guess. I can play on the perimeter.”
His presence can also play with the opponent’s mindset.
“Every coach we play against, they know I’m down there,” Whiteside said. “I can hear them talking to the refs every defensive possession. ‘Who is Whiteside guarding? Where is Whiteside? What is Whiteside doing?’ That’s because Whiteside is a shot blocker.”
Washington was already laboring offensively in the second quarter when guard Ramon Sessions’ floater cut Miami’s lead to 39-31 with 5:35 remaining in the half. Things then deteriorated. The Wizards ended the quarter with 13 straight missed field goals before the crowd of 17,793.
The misfiring continued and Washington never pulled closer than 14 points in the second half. The Wizards finished 4 of 29 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“(We) could not hit any shots,” Wall said of the second quarter. “We let not making shots hurt our defense. They got a lot of fast breaks and it kind of just blew the game out of the way.”
Forward Gerald Green scored 15 points and his fourth quarter jumper gave Miami its largest lead at 89-59. Guard Tyler Johnson had 10 points and matched Green, Bosh and Dragic with two 3-pointers.
Wall missed 13 straight shot attempts during one stretch between the first and third quarters. The All-Star guard frequently drives into the lane for shots or passing opportunities, but less so against the Heat with the 7-foot Whiteside looming. Wall had five assists, snapping his streak of eight straight double-doubles.
Garrett Temple, Washington’s other starting guard, went 4 of 16 from the field.
Whiteside helped Miami outrebound Washington 54-45. His defensive approach clearly helped his team.
“It really becomes inspiring when he’s defending like that with a real attention to detail,” Spoelstra said.
NOTES: Heat G Dwyane Wade started and scored eight points after coming off the bench on New Year’s Day against the Dallas Mavericks due to flu-like symptoms. … Wizards F Drew Gooden was unavailable after returning to the lineup Friday for the first time in 21 games. Gooden re-aggravated a strained calf injury in Washington’s 103-91 win over the Orlando Magic. The Wizards remain without G Bradley Beal (leg), PF Nene (calf strain), G Gary Neal (quad), F DeJuan Blair (knee) and G Alan Anderson (left ankle surgery). … The series resumes Jan. 20 in Washington. … Miami returns home to face the Indiana Pacers on Monday. … Washington’s homestand continues Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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