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Heat turn up defense to stifle Wizards

The SportsXchange

MIAMI -- Since an embarrassing loss to the NBA's worst team that started a rough 2-3 stretch, the Miami Heat decided to go back to what they do best, according to LeBron James: defense and ball movement.

Facing the Washington Wizards for the first time since that defeat, the Heat never gave them a chance for another upset in a 102-72 victory Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

"You have a team that's coming in here a little bit nicked up from injuries playing at home off a little bit of a disappointing week for us," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You should have some of these games where you jump on teams and you're able to sustain it."

Miami (15-6) returned to its winning ways at home. After starting the season 8-0, the team had lost two contests on its current six-game home stand, including a 97-95 defeat to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

Since their Dec. 4 meeting, Washington (3-18) is 1-6 and is also 1-10 on the season away from the Verizon Center. The Heat snapped their three-game losing streak to the Wizards, which dated back to last season.

In that matchup two weeks ago, Washington jumped out to a 30-25 first-quarter lead, something Miami didn't allow to happen this time as the Heat went on a 19-5 run to close the quarter up 26-14. Miami's defense forced the Wizards into a 28.6 field goal percentage.

Washington, playing the second night of a back-to-back, came in as the NBA's lowest-scoring team, and its 50-36 halftime deficit proved to be a season-best defensive stand for the Heat.

"One of those nights that nothing fell, and we just had no organization," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "We just got outplayed, outcoached, out-effort, everything. We didn't have any direction on the floor."

James, who recorded a triple-double against the Wizards (26 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds) in that 105-101 loss, started despite injuring his shoulder on a hard foul on Wednesday and sitting out practice on Friday.

He extended his streak to 26 consecutive games with 20 or more points by scoring 16 in the third quarter as the Heat took a commanding 79-46 lead, outscoring the Wizards 29-10 -- the fewest points allowed to an opponent this season.

"It's serious because it's our game and we take our games very seriously," said James, who finished with a double-double -- 23 points and 10 rebounds --adding five assists. "Any team that beats us, we want to get back, and we were able to take care of business tonight."

Three other Heat players -- Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem -- finished in double figures.

Haslem, who has started the past four games, replaced Shane Battier in the lineup. Battier has logged 20:32 minutes of playing time off the bench since missing three games with a knee injury, including the first meeting between the Heat and Wizards.

"I think we started with our defense today, and it was able to fuel our offense," said Haslem, who scored a season-high 13 points. "We have to be more active at the start of the game defensively, we have to be more aggressive defensively (and) attack on the defensive end. I think that can fuel our offense."

A Heat lineup of Battier, Joel Anthony, Ray Allen, Norris Cole and Mike Miller began the fourth quarter as the Heat maintained their lead and tied their season-best with a 30-point win.

Bradley Beal, who attended the University of Florida, led the Wizards with 19 points off the bench despite missing his first seven shots. He scored all but four of his team's third-quarter points. Cartier Martin added 18 points.

"We weren't really pushing and moving the ball like we did the first game," Beal said. "I think we got a little stagnant and tired. We still have to keep fighting through it. The shots didn't fall, but there are other things in the game we could've done."

Jordan Crawford, starting his fourth straight game at point guard with John Wall still recovering from a stress reaction in his left knee and A.J. Price out with a broken bone in his hand, struggled with just five points on 2-of-12 shooting.

During the previous three games since the switch from shooting guard, he had averaged 18 points, 6.7 rebounds and five assists. The Wizards backcourt shot 27.8 percent, and the Heat forced 21 turnovers.

"It is about time that we started becoming more consistent on defense," Bosh said. "We've done it now. Now it is about putting two and three games together. We need to make sure we come out and get off to a good defensive start. If we do that, everything takes care of itself."

NOTES: Several Miami Heat players, including James, Wade and Bosh, brought their children onto the court before the game for a moment of silence for the victims of the Newtown, Conn. shooting. Players and coaches discussed the idea, which Wade came up with, at the beginning of shootaround. "Our hearts, our thoughts and our prayers go out to everyone in the community there in Connecticut," Spoelstra said. "It really hit home with our guys in the locker room. Like I said this morning, you could see it visibly on their expressions. Everybody was talking about it ... You just feel so bad for the community and families. There's nothing that's going to be able to make it right." ... The Wizards return home Tuesday to play Atlanta but head back to the Sunshine State to face the Magic on Wednesday. ... The Heat's six-game homestand ends Tuesday when Minnesota comes to town. After a quick stop in Dallas on Thursday, Miami will host Utah and Oklahoma City.
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