I'll be catching the Wiz in about an hour when they get out of practice here in Miami and I'll know then just how devastating this weekend was to their "swag" as Gilbert and DeShawn call it. I do know this: I've been in a lot of losing locker rooms in my athletic and sports writing career and have seldom seen a team as down as this one after Udonis Haslem of all people threw in that game winner for the Heat last night.
No player or coach I talked to could remember losing on last-second, game-winning shots on back-to-back nights. In the game story I wrote for today's paper, I tried to get into a bunch of things from those final minutes, including the missed Payton free throws, the Antonie Walker rebound of his missed three-pointer, the calls by Tommy Nunez Jr., Gilbert's three clutch free throws and then the final shot. What I didn't do was allow the Heat to explain how in the world Haslem wound up taking that shot.
Haslem: "I was kind of surprised when he called my number. At the same time I was confident. I just didn't want him (Pat Riley) to be tossing and turning tonight, kicking himself for calling my number. No matter what the situation calls for, I'm going to be ready."
Riley: "With four seconds to go, all their perimeters pretty much switch everything, so if you're running any cuts to get somebody open, the guy that you probably want to get open is not going to be open. They switch out and take passing lanes away. We felt the one guy they probably wouldn't - and he's a good free-throw shooter - is Udonis. We just kept him on the block. We cut Gary (Payton) off of him, and he got it and went to the basket. He just wanted to get a look at it. Not only did he get a look at it, he made a Dwyane Wade shot - a runner, hanging in the air. It was a great shot by him."
Shaq: "We are the most experienced team in the league when it comes to playing from behind. I think they got a little happy, running their mouths, jumping up and down, looking at the Heat dancers and all that stuff. Coach drew a play up for Udonis, we ran it and he hit the shot."
Antawn Jamison was clearly caught a little flat-footed when Haslem made his move and afer the game, he said he was expecting Haslem to pass to the cutting Payton or Eddie Jones. I thought Riley would call a play for Jones.
Jamison: "When he made his move, I kind of got a swat at it and got some of the ball but he was moving away from the basket and fading back. He got a good look at it and made it. When it went up, it seemed like it was in the air forever. I was thinking: 'come down, come down.' Then it went it in."
One thing about Jamison: No way this team was even in that game without him. He was sensational during that 38-point third quarter and his energy and shotmaking gave the Wizards a much needed kick. Blame him for the loss if you want, but keep all of that in mind as well.
I asked Eddie whether he considered making a defensive substitution after Gilbert's three free throws, perhaps putting in Ruffin or a center.
"If Shaq would have come in, Brendan was coming in but we had the matchups we wanted," Jordan said. " We had power forward on power forward. We had guards and mids matched up, so I thought we had enough defense on the floor."
But it was not enough to prevent a second straight buzzer-beating loss, one that moved the Heat within a game of the Wizards in the Southeast Division. The schedule gets brutal for the Wizards with six of the next seven on the road and a bunch of back-to-backs coming up. Miami, meanwhile, closes with: at Boston, home vs. Charlotte, at Charlotte, home to the Wiz, home to Indiana, home to Boston and at Orlando.
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