The Washington Wizards earned their first win of the preseason on Tuesday night, with a solid team performance, topping the Miami Heat 100-82 in front of 13,678 fans.
At tip-off, a neutral spectator to the Verizon Center could have easily mistaken this for a Heat home game. Raucous cheers arose every time LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade’s names were mentioned. James did nothing to dampen such an atmosphere, which peaked when he conjured incendiary back-to-back dunks in the second quarter. Love him or hate him, there really is truly something special about watching such a gifted athlete in their prime, whether it be LeBron, Peyton Manning or Lionel Messi.
Bradley Beal was by far the standout player of the evening, scoring 29 points, two rebounds and two assists. Beal seemed far more mature than his years show, calmly choosing the right shots and not forcing the ball when prompted. The backcourt partnership Beal, the sophomore out of Florida, is forming with John Wall is showing signs of becoming one of the most formidable in the NBA. With the stalling RGIII nation and Capitals underperforming, D.C. is again on the search for a hero. Much like Gotham needs its Batman and Robin, Wall and Beal could be the heroes the nation’s capital needs.
A negative factor I mentioned in the Wizards home loss to Brooklyn Nets was the underwhelming three-point game. Things took a turn for the better last night as D.C. went 12-31 with a .375 ratio. Standouts were the aforementioned Beal (4-8), Al Harrington (3-6) and Trevor Ariza (2-5). The team also fared better in Saturdays encounter against the Chicago Bulls in Rio, Brazil, in which the Wiz shot 8-for-24 from outside.
Nene was unavailable for the game due to “personal matters” and decided to stay in Brazil. That left a lack of height and power within the Wizards starting five and it was left to Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker to fill the ranks. One must wonder how the Wizards would have fared had Nene been available.
Jan Vesely was again a disappointment; managing a standalone dunk from Al Harrington’s assist. Vesely has been the team leader in rebounds in the Wizards’ two previous games but only managed five boards, equaling his foul tally for the evening.
It is all too easy to get carried away with a result like this. Although James, Wade and Bosh all played over 20 minutes of action, there were times you could tell the Heat rarely threatened to get out of first gear but still managed to push the Wizards. The Heat have some vast depth, paying particular reference to Shane Battier, who managed to shoot 5-for-5 with a joint team high of 14 points. This is however certainly a “feel good” victory for the Wizards who have faced tough opposition so far this preseason, having lost in overtime to Brooklyn and by two points to Chicago.
There are still plenty of teething problems that Randy Whitman has to address before the Wizards home opener against the Philadelphia 76ers on November 1st. The Wizards turned the ball over 21 times, John Wall the main perpetrator with five. The question still remains as to who will step up in Emeka Okafor’s absence, which is a big loss in the defensive game.
The comedic moment of the evening goes to the Heat’s Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who fell victim to the promotional offer where if any opposing player misses two consecutive free throws, everyone in attendance wins a Chik-fil-A chicken sandwich.
The Wizards now travel to Baltimore ahead of Thursday’s matchup against another tough opponent, the New York Knicks. The game marks the 50th anniversary of the Baltimore Bullets and sees Baltimore host its first professional basketball game since 1999 when the Wizards played the Cleveland Cavaliers in a preseason exhibition.