Healthy over an extended stretch for the first time all season, the resurgent Heat have won seven of their last eight games to climb a half-game in front of the New York Knicks for sixth place in the East.
On Saturday, rookie Dwyane Wade and Eddie Jones scored 17 points apiece to lead the Heat to a 101-69 rout of Philadelphia. Miami improved to 14-7 with Wade, Jones, Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant in the starting lineup.
“We’re so much better when we’re healthy,” said Butler, who had eight points, eight rebounds and four assists against Philadelphia.
“Coach (Stan Van Gundy) always says that when we get our core guys together, we’re amazing to watch. Now it’s really happening for us. We know anything can happen, even in the playoffs.”
Butler missed the first five games of the season due to left knee surgery, and sat out another nine with injuries to his left leg, right elbow and back. Grant also missed five because of tendinitis in his right knee. Wade was sidelined for 20 games due to injuries to both his feet, his right wrist and hip.
“Guys were injured early on and it hurt,” said Jones, referring to Miami’s 5-15 start. “But we have good players. We have a lot of talent, and talent overcomes anything.”
Despite the hot stretch, Miami is yet to have success on the road. They are 8-25 away from home this season, and will play eight of their last 13 games in hostile territory.
“We have a lot of growth to do now,” said Van Gundy. “We have been a totally different team away from home, so we are going to have to grow up in that regard.”
Miami, 1-3 last season against Washington, looks to sweep the season series.
Washington has bounced back from a season-high seven-game losing streak to win two straight, benefitting from the improved play of forward Kwame Brown.
After putting up career bests of 30 points and 19 rebounds against Sacramento on Wednesday, Brown finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds to lead Washington to a 94-84 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.
“Young players sometimes don’t come to play two games in a row so we had to give him the ball inside to keep his confidence up,” said Washington guard Gilbert Arenas, who completed his third triple-double of the season with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
”(Brown’s) confidence is sky high right now, so we’ve got to feed him the ball.”