Trailing the Miami Heat by 23 points in the first quarter, the Washington Wizards starters were booed off the court. Everybody in the building thought the game was over.
"We did too," Heat center Alonzo Mourning said. "Unfortunately, we got a little complacent, stopped guarding people, stopped working the game, and just gave the lead away."
The Wizards reserves led an amazing rally against the Heat reserves to tie the game in the third quarter, but the Heat prevailed when it was starters vs. starters again down the stretch. Friday night's 104-95 victory was Miami's fourth straight, but hardly their most comfortable.
Every starter scored in double figures for the Heat, who are 5-1 for the second time in franchise history.
"We played so well in the first quarter, then we took a hit," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "We did not sustain with the bench guys the defensive intensity."
The Wizards have lost five straight after winning their season opener, and only a strong bench performance kept this game from becoming one of the all-time embarrassments.
The Heat jumped to a 30-8 lead, with the fans booing the moribund starters each time coach Gar Heard called one of his fruitless timeouts. Washington missed 10 of its first 12 shots and had four turnovers in the first 7 1/2 minutes.
By the 3:49 mark, all five starters were on the bench, and a spirited crew of Wizards reserves Tracy Murray, Jahidi White, Gerard King, Aaron Williams, Richard Hamilton and Chris Whitney set the stage for an amazing rally. Washington scored 17 consecutive points in the second quarter to close to 39-36.
Unfortunately for Heard, he eventually had to take the backups out.
"They can't play the last 35 minutes of the game," Heard said. "I had to give them a blow. And when I took those guys out, we went back."
That's not saying much for the starters like Mitch Richmond, who has been bothered by a sore knee and finished with just five points on 2-for-7 shooting.
"I'm trying to play myself back into shape," Richmond said. "But I've got to push through it. The other 28 teams are not going to wait for us, so we've got to find a way."
The Wizards had seven players in double figures, four of whom didn't start. Murray led the scoring with 15 points.
With the score 86-83 and 6:55 to play, Mourning took control inside. His dunk off an offensive rebound finished the run that put Miami ahead 101-87 with 2:18 to play, essentially putting the game out of reach.
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