Friday, December 1, 2023
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NBA Preview: Washington Wizards (1-3) at Miami Heat (1-4)

The Miami Heat, who are set to host the Washington Wizards on Friday night in their first game of the NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament, are slumping.

Miami has lost four straight games for the first time since it had that exact skid this past February.

Miami will hope to rebound when it faces the Wizards. Both teams are in East Group B of the new in-season tourney, along with the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets.

The five teams will play games against all the other teams in the group, with two squads advancing to the knockout round. The championship game is Dec. 9 in Las Vegas.

Miami blew a 16-point first-half lead on Wednesday night, losing 109-105 to the visiting Brooklyn Nets.

After the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke about his team’s failure to “sustain” leads.

Part of the issue is that the Heat are not getting much secondary scoring behind their three stars: Tyler Herro (26.2 points per game), Adebayo (22.3) and Jimmy Butler (16.5).

In the loss to the Nets, Herro had 30 points; Adebayo came back from missing one game due to a hip injury to produce 21 points and a game-high 14 rebounds; and Butler added 20 points and seven boards.

Miami on Wednesday was without Caleb Martin (sprained left knee) and Kevin Love (bruised left shoulder). Martin has been ruled out for Friday while Love is expected to play.

But those injuries, Herro said, are not an excuse.

Washington, meanwhile, will also enter Friday on a losing streak, having dropped two straight games.

The Wizards, who are 0-2 on the road this season, lost 130-121 at the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. Washington played that game without starting center Daniel Gafford, who has an ankle injury.

In addition, the Wizards lost forward Corey Kispert — also due to a sprained left ankle — during Wednesday’s loss. Kispert is questionable for Friday’s game.

The Wizards, who have been in the draft lottery in each of the past two seasons, are clearly rebuilding.

In the offseason, they traded their two biggest stars — Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis. They didn’t get much in return in those deals, including only one first-round pick (which is protected) and eight second-rounders, which includes flipping Chris Paul, who Washington received in the Beal deal.

Instead, the Wizards re-signed Kyle Kuzma to a four-year, $90-million contract. Kuzma leads Washington in scoring this season (23.0), and he ranks second in rebounds (7.3).

Kuzma is only making 23.1 percent on his 3-pointers. But he is connecting on 62.7 percent of his 2-pointers and 83.3 percent on free throws.

Another key member of the Wizards is Jordan Poole, who won an NBA title with the Golden State Warriors in 2022 and averaged a career-high 20.4 points last season. In his first season with the Wizards, he is averaging 17.3 points.

But Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said Poole has become a young leader.

The Wizards, though, need more from their three most recent first-round picks: Deni Avdija, Kispert and Johnny Davis. All three were top-15 selections. Avdija, who is in his fourth season, is a starter averaging a career-high 13.0 points. Kispert, in his third season, is a reserve averaging 11.0 points. And Davis, in his second year, is getting just 13 minutes per game, averaging 6.0 points.

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