Lack of Depth Down Low Haunts Washington Wizards in Opener


Oct 29, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat (4) reacts during the second half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 107-95. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Randy Wittman knew that his Wizards would be short-handed heading into the season opener in Miami on Wednesday. Forwards Nene and DeJuan Blair were both suspended from the game after stepping on the court from the bench during an altercation against the Chicago Bulls in the preseason. Bradley Beal remains out for at least another month, and Glen Rice, Jr.  is still working his way back from an ankle injury.

Those injuries proved to be the Achilles’ heel for Washington Wednesday night, as Chris Bosh scored 26 points to lead the Heat past the Wizards, 107-95, in the first game of the season for both teams.

Guard Norris Cole scored 23 points in just under 28 minutes of work, and Dwayne Wade, despite leaving the game at one point with what appeared to be a knee injury, finished the game with 21 points.

While Washington center Marcin Gortat scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds down low, and forward Drew Gooden III also scored 18 points – many coming from the mid-range game – Washington’s lack of depth in the paint allowed Miami to out-rebound the Wizards 44-36, including 12 offensive rebounds. Fifteen of those rebounds came from Bosh, who shot 50 percent (9-of-18) from the field.

Backup Kris Humphries, who is coming off a hand injury, scored just four points and grabbed just two rebounds in a little over 13 minutes of action. Kevin Seraphin was less than stellar tonight, as he failed to score a point and grab a rebound in over seven minutes of play. He had one assist and two personal fouls.

Miami also scored 44 of their points in the paint.

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Beal’s absence hurt the Wizards more defensively that it did offensively. Five Wizards scored in double figures, including John Wall who had a double-double with 16 points and 11 assists. Veteran Paul Pierce looked sharp in his first game as a Wizard, scoring 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out five assists. Backup forward Otto Porter also scored 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

But Washington had no answer for Miami’s starting guards. Wade and Cole combined to shoot 54.8 percent (17-for-31) from the field.

The Wizards also shot themselves in the foot with turnovers (14) and at the free throw line, missing seven total on 17-24 from the charity stripe. The Heat only missed three on 20-of-23 shooting.

Despite being outplayed at the end of the game, the under-manned Wizards kept pace with the Heat for most of the game. In fact, Washington led Miami, 28-22, at the end of the first quarter. But the Heat clawed back in the second to take a one-point lead into the half and played a back-and-forth third quarter, which saw the Heat have a two-point lead heading into the final period.

But Miami’s depth and experience helped the Heat pull away in the fourth, ultimately out-scoring the Wizards by 10 in the quarter and ending the game on a 10-3 run in the final two minutes of the game – eight points coming from Wade.

Washington will retain the services of Nene and Blair tomorrow evening when they continue play in the Southeast Division in Orlando.

The Magic lost to the Pelicans on Tuesday, 101-84, and lack any real depth at each position. With Washington’s top forwards back, the Wizards should be able to feast on Kyle O’Quinn and Nikola Vucevic. Having Nene back will also help spread the floor for Gortat and create more lanes for give-and-go’s from Wall to Gortat and Nene.

The Brazilian’s presence will also add a toughness that was clearly lacking against Miami.

Tip-off from Orlando is schedule for 7 p.m. and the game can be watched on CSN Washington.