The Washington Wizards and Miami Heat meet in the second of consecutive games against each other, Saturday at Washington, D.C.
A pair of losses Wednesday and Thursday — the latter of which came Thursday in Miami, 112-97 — dropped the Wizards from atop the Eastern Conference standings. The Heat moved into that spot on the strength of their current, four-game winning streak.
Jimmy Butler paced Miami to Thursday’s win over Washington with 32 points, and Bam Adebayo added 20 points with nine rebounds in his return from a two-game absence due to a bruised knee.
“Bam is really smart, so he sees what the veteran players are doing and what is called for (in terms of scoring contributions) for that game, or that quarter,” Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said in his postgame press conference.
Adebayo is averaging career-highs of 19.7 points and 11 rebounds through the first month of the 2021-22 season.
Butler is also averaging a career-best in scoring thus far into the campaign with 24.8 points per game. He has scored at least 31 points in three of his last four games, while also sustaining an ankle injury Nov. 10 against the Los Angeles Lakers that kept him out of three contests.
Now tied with Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference’s best record, Miami embarks on a four-game road swing that begins with Saturday’s matchup.
Washington comes in looking to ignite another winning streak. The Wizards rolled off five straight victories before dropping their last two.
In each of the two losses, Washington failed to score 100 points. Despite shooting 41.7 percent from 3-point range at Miami on Thursday, including Kyle Kuzma’s 4 of 9 from deep in a 19-point effort, the Wizards were plagued by 17 turnovers.
“If we limit our turnovers, we’ll be fine,” Bradley Beal said Thursday, after scoring 30 points in the loss. “We were able to score. Scoring’s not a problem. We’re a top-five, top-10 team defensively. It’s not like we can’t defend. It’s just a matter of us putting it all together. I think we’ll be good Saturday.”
At 103.6 points allowed per game, Washington has indeed been a top-10 defensive team so far this season. Miami comes in with a top 10 offense averaging 110.5 points per game.
The Wizards are dealing with a bevy of absences. Davis Bertans is sidelined with an ankle injury, Daniel Gafford missed Thursday’s contest due to a thumb injury, Rui Hachimura has yet to play this season, and Spencer Dinwiddie was out Thursday for injury management.
“Anytime you’re down bodies, it puts a different element of stress on your group,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said in his postgame press conference on Thursday. “Whether it’s guys playing more minutes, guys playing out of position, but it’s no excuse.”
Miami played Thursday without Tyler Herro due to a wrist injury, and Markieff Morris. Morris injured his neck in an altercation with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic in a Nov. 8 game against Denver.