A lack of selfishness and a focus on defense are doing wonders for the Miami Heat.
Coming off their best win of the season, the Heat look to continue their best start in 10 years Tuesday night and extend the recent woes of the visiting Washington Wizards.
Miami (5-1) is holding opponents to a league-low 41.6 percent from the field and ranks among the league leaders in points allowed at 90.7 per game.
The result has been the best start for the Heat since opening 6-1 in 1999-2000. They achieved that feat Friday with a 96-88 victory over a Denver team which had been unbeaten.
“We’re definitely excited and we definitely see we can be pretty good,” offseason acquisition Quentin Richardson(notes) said. “But it’s all about continuously working and trying to get better. … It just feels good to know that we’re going out there and getting some tough wins.”
The victory over last season’s Western Conference finalist surely was a confidence boost after the Heat’s previous four wins came against teams which didn’t finish 2008-09 with winning records.
One of those victories came at Washington, 93-89 on Wednesday behind Dwyane Wade’s(notes) 40 points. The reigning scoring champion followed that performance with 22 points Friday, but Miami had five players in double figures and forced a season-high 19 turnovers.
“As I continue to keep saying, it’s going to take that for us to be successful,” Wade said of the balanced scoring. “I enjoyed it. I really did.”
The veteran swingman, who lost 30 pounds entering the season, has keyed the club’s solid defensive play by regularly taking charges and often matching up with the opposition’s top scorer.
“Feels good when people take notice and things like that,” Richardson said. “But it’s not really about me, man. If we were 1-5, nobody would be saying anything about me. It’s about the team and how well we’re playing together.”
The Wizards (2-5) are not playing well together.
They’ve lost four straight, getting held under 40 percent from the field in each contest while failing to score more than 90 points. They’ve had at least as many turnovers as assists in each of those games - they had more assists in every game during their 2-1 start while averaging 104.7 points and shooting 50.6 percent.
“We’re just not there. We don’t make that one extra pass,” first-year coach Flip Saunders said. “We’re taking too many contested shots. If we were a hockey team, we’d have no hockey assists - you know, the pass that leads to the pass.”
Fabricio Oberto(notes) has been limited to 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per game starting all seven games in place of Jamison, who averaged team highs of 22.2 points and 8.9 rebounds last season. Randy Foye(notes) started in place of Miller on Sunday in a 102-90 loss to Phoenix and scored 16 for a second straight game.
The Wizards have lost the last five meetings with the Heat, dropping two trips to Miami last season by a combined 42 points.