The struggling division rivals meet in Miami on Wednesday with the Heat needing a victory to clinch their third consecutive Southeast title.
Miami (42-36) was swept in a home-and-home series with Charlotte, capped by Tuesday’s 92-82 road defeat. The Heat played without injured regulars Gary Payton and Udonis Haslem, as well as Shaquille O’Neal - who was attending his grandfather’s funeral.
The loss dropped Miami three games behind Toronto for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, the last spot that carries home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
“They see the standings and they see it’s going to take a miracle to move up,” Heat coach Pat Riley said. “Maybe subconsciously they have said, ‘We’re settling in right here. We’re going to have to do it the hard way.’ The way we played tonight, there wasn’t a sense of urgency.”
Guard Dwyane Wade - playing just his second game after missing the previous 24 due to a dislocated shoulder, went 6-for-12 from the field and finished with 14 points, but also committed four turnovers in just 21 minutes. He is 9-for-21 in his two games back but also has as many assists as turnovers (10).
“I can’t jump right now. I can’t explode,” said Wade, who averages 28.4 points. “I’m waiting for that to come back. Once my explosion comes back, my first step comes back, you’ll see a difference.”
Payton is expected to miss at least two weeks with a torn calf muscle, and Haslem is day-to-day with a groin injury. It is uncertain if O’Neal will rejoin the team for this game.
The injury-ravaged Wizards (39-38) need to win this game to have any chance of winning the Southeast Division title since a loss would give the Heat the head-to-head tiebreaker. Washington clinched the sixth of the eight playoff berths in the East despite a 96-92 loss to New Jersey on Tuesday.
The Wizards suffered their season-high fifth consecutive loss but backed into the postseason thanks to a loss by the Indiana Pacers. Washington squandered a five-point lead in the final 1:30 and fell to 0-3 without Arenas and Butler.
“I always say that in December and January, when we were going pretty darn good, that I always felt like I’m walking on the edge of a cliff and about to fall off,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “I’ve been feeling that way a whole lot lately.”
The Wizards have not lost six in a row since a seven-game skid from March 5-16, 2004.
Washington snapped a 12-game regular-season losing streak to Miami with a 106-95 victory in the first game between the teams this season, but the Heat have won the last two meetings, including a 106-104 triumph March 11 on Haslem’s jumper with 0.3 seconds left.