Eleven nights ago, in front of 17,761 fans at Verizon Center, the Wizards pulled off the biggest upset of the 2012-13 NBA season when they handed LeBron James and the defending champion Miami Heat a 105-101 setback.
And while it wasn’t exactly Villanova-Georgetown circa 1985, it was, in the words of Wizards coach Randy Wittman, a “statement game” for the Wizards, who entered that contest with a 1-13 record.
Tonight in Miami the Heat will look to avenge that loss when they take on the Wizards at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet and 106.7 FM/1500 AM.
“We expect the Heat to come out and play aggressive and be ready to play after the loss they took here,” Wizards forward Cartier Martin said after scoring a season-high 21 points in Friday night’s 102-96 loss to the Lakers. “We have to come in and be aggressive as well and handle this game the way we handled the first one.”
Before that Dec. 4 game against the Heat, Wittman reminded his players that no one outside their locker room believed the Wizards could beat the Heat, who were 11-4 at the time.
But Jordan Crawford dropped a team-high 22 points, Kevin Seraphin added 16 points and 10 rebounds and Martell Webster added 13 points to lead the Wizards.
“This isn’t a lesson for us; it’s just a loss,” James said after that loss to the Wizards. “That’s all it is. We’ve seen and been through everything, so we don’t need a loss to teach us a lesson to do better.”
Said Crawford: “It won’t exactly turn the season around if we don’t continue to work.”
Since that game, the Wizards have gone 1-4, while the Heat have gone 3-2.
For Wizards rookie Bradley Beal, this is the second time around facing James and Dwyane Wade and he expects a battle, especially since the Wizards are 0-4 in the second end of back-to-backs this season.
“They’re at home and that’s a great team,” Beal said. “We’re coming off tough back-to-backs but that’s no excuse for us. We’ve got to be prepared and be ready. It’s tough assignments every night. No matter who it’s against we’ve got to be ready.”
It was during their win over the Heat that the Wizards began setting the tempo of their games, moving the ball up the floor with quick passes instead of deliberately dribbling up the court and registering a season-high 31 assists.
They’ll need to do more of the same while trying to neutralize a team of All-Stars that includes, James, Wade and former Celtic Ray Allen.
“Our hands are going to be full even without us beating them,” Wittman said. “They’re one of the best teams in the league.
“It’s good that we just played them and we won. I think they know that. They played in this league long enough to understand that there are games different teams point to with what’s happened before. That’s part of the NBA.”
Webster said the Wizards need to focus more on what they need to do to beat the Heat than worry about their opponent exacting revenge.
“Just go out there and play,” he said. “Don’t worry about anything but what’s going on in our locker room. The game plan against them starts with us. We have to get out and execute. We have to go out there and win.”