WASHINGTON (AP) — Before his NBA-worst, one-win Washington Wizards took on LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat, coach Randy Wittman gathered his team for a heart-to-heart.
“I told the guys … ‘The only people that think you have a chance tonight are the people here in this room,’” Wittman recounted.
The prevailing wisdom, Wittman told his players, was that they “ain’t got a chance to win this game, and that’s what people were saying. We all listen. Could hear it on the street and all that. These guys, it bothers them.”
Well, to pretty much everyone’s surprise, the Wizards doubled their season victory total, beating the Heat 105-101 on Tuesday night behind Jordan Crawford’s 22 points — and despite James’ triple-double of 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
“I’m so happy for those guys,” said Wittman, who called this perhaps the most satisfying victory of his coaching career.
The Wizards improved to 2-13, earning their second win in the past three games after starting a franchise-worst 0-12.
“It’s a big momentum win for us, obviously. We’ve been struggling to put together four quarters,” Washington point guard Shaun Livingston said.
The Heat, meanwhile, began the day with a six-game winning streak and a 12-3 record, tied for the league’s best winning percentage at .800.
Afterward, with his feet soaking in a tub of ice, and his eyes scanning a box score, James chuckled a bit at the notion that Miami might learn something from the surprising setback.
“Nah, man, there’s not no lesson. This ain’t a lesson for us. We just lost,” James explained. “We’ve seen and been through everything, so we don’t need a loss to be like, ‘Oh, let’s catch ourselves.’ It happens.”
He missed a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left that could have given the Heat a lead, and another from beyond the arc that would have tied the score with 3.9 to go.
Yes, the Heat were the ones rushing shots on occasion and they made only 8 of 28 attempts on 3-pointers. The Wizards, surprisingly, were the ones being patient, making the extra pass, finding the teammate with an open look — and finishing with 31 assists on 38 baskets.
“You move on,” said Wade, who scored 24. “You learn from it, but you don’t become a good team by holding onto certain losses — or certain wins.”
With a crowd of 17,761 — not, incidentally, a sellout — standing and screaming down the stretch, relishing that rare chance to witness a compelling game, Kevin Seraphin contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds for the hosts, while Crawford made three free throws in the final 11 seconds.
“It basically just shows how good of a team we are. How good we can be,” Crawford said. “That’s the main thing.”
Actually, the Wizards are world-beaters when it comes to facing the Heat: This made it three consecutive regular-season victories for Washington over Miami, including two last season in April.
“We have to own it right now, not just brush it off that it’s a game we let go,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Because we didn’t put ourselves in the best position to give ourselves an opportunity to win.”
Unlike the James-Wade-Bosh Heat, the Wizards are mostly a collection of castoffs and high draft picks who never lived up to their billing — or have yet to, anyway. Their best player, 2010 No. 1 overall pick John Wall, has yet to participate in a practice, let alone play, this season because of a left knee cap injury.
Before the game, Wittman said he can’t give an idea of when Wall will be available.
Afterward, Wittman was in a far better mood.
“That was a complete game for us, start to finish,” he said. “I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”
NOTES: Heat G Mario Chalmers sat out the fourth quarter with a jammed finger. … Wizards F Trevor Ariza left in the third quarter with a strained left calf and was limping in the locker room afterward. He was fitted with a walking boot. … Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who helped his team beat the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants 17-16 a night earlier, drew raucous cheers when he arrived at his courtside seat Tuesday. James was asked whether RG3′s vow to transform the basketball star into a Redskins fan could succeed. “No. But I’m a fan of his, though. He’s an unbelievable talent. I like to watch him play,” James said. … Wittman went with his fifth different starting lineup this season. … The Heat were without Shane Battier (right knee) and Norris Cole (strained groin).
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