MIAMI -- To the outsider, the seeds of the Washington Wizards' 93-83 loss last night to the Miami Heat were sown in the previous 72 hours. The Wizards were taken to overtime Thursday by Houston, then held off a pesky Chicago squad Saturday, only to hop a plane for Florida.
But Washington coach Doug Collins chose to see last night's loss as a self-contained entity caused solely by the Wizards' failure to apply the brakes to Miami's fourth-quarter roll.
"I think when it counted, Miami just out-toughed us," Collins said. "I think we played eight minutes of team basketball and that was in the third quarter. We played defense, we moved the ball. They [Heat] scored the last two possessions of the third quarter and the first nine times they had it in the fourth. And you can't win like that."
The Wizards (29-30) fell into a tie with Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot, a half game behind Orlando.
Nothing worked as well as it had the night before against Chicago, with Washington shooting just 37 percent from the floor and getting out-rebounded 44-39 by the lowly Heat (20-39).
Michael Jordan, for instance, shot just 9-for-27 from the field for 21 points. Jerry Stackhouse had a game-high 24 points, but he made just seven of his 17 field-goal attempts.
Meanwhile, former Maryland Terrapin Juan Dixon -- the hero of Saturday's win with a career-high 27 points -- shot 1-for-7 last night. He had four points, two assists and five turnovers as he tried to assume some of the point guard duties left by the injury absences of Larry Hughes (ankle sprain) and Tyronn Lue (shoulder).
"It [the defensive pressure] was pretty much the same as against Chicago," Dixon said. "They tried to put the same pressure on me. I tried to get the team into the offense early and get guys the ball. That's what I tried to do. I just wasn't executing."
Said Collins: "Against this team, you have to have somebody who can run your offense. They are going to trap you and press the ball. They're going to try to disrupt you, and Juan is still learning. It's hard for him to run our offense right now."
The Wizards turned to newly acquired point guard Anthony Goldwire, who had 10 points and an assist in 20 minutes. Goldwire, who is with Washington on a 10-day contract, played well but is admittedly behind the curve.
"I'm limited," Goldwire said. "I don't know any plays. I just know the basic sets. I'm just playing right now. I know who to get the ball to, Mike and Jerry, and if anybody else is open, get it to them. If I'm open, take my shot. But I need to play solid and play tough defensively and make something happen. That's all I'm trying to do."
The Wizards, who had won three of their previous four games, sleepwalked through most of the first three quarters. They finally awoke midway through the third, launching an 18-2 run that took them from a 12-point hole to a 63-59 advantage with 50.6 seconds left in the period.
The Wizards took the lead on a vintage Jordan move. He faced up Caron Butler on the baseline, drove, stopped and spun past Butler, then flipped up a finger roll that nestled in and drew a huge reaction from the partisan Miami crowd.
But as Jordan headed to the bench for an extra minute of rest between periods, the Heat found new life. Reserve guard Mike James scored on a drive with 26 seconds remaining in the period. Then, off a steal, Butler scored on a layup and converted a free throw to give Miami a 64-63 lead heading to the fourth.
The Heat opened the final quarter with a 16-7 run that was fueled by reserves Rasual Butler and Mike James, who combined for 21 points off the bench.
"We got out of rhythm offensively," Jordan said. "In the third quarter, we found a rhythm and once we got into the fourth quarter, we just continued to let them score. They were off and running and we never got a stop defensively."
Percentages: FG .368, FT .920. 3-point goals: 4-13, .308 (Stackhouse 2-7, Goldwire 1-1, Russell 1-2, Jordan 0-1, Dixon 0-2). Team rebounds: 8. Blocked shots: 3 (Jordan 3). Turnovers: 10 (Dixon 5, Stackhouse 3, Oakley, Goldwire). Steals: 6 (Russell 2, Laettner, Jordan, Dixon, Oakley). Technical Fouls: Stackhouse, 9:07 third. Flagrant fouls: Haywood, 3:55 second. FGFTReb
Percentages: FG .412, FT .846. 3-point goals: 5-15, .333 (Jones 2-4, Best 1-2, C.Butler 1-2, R.Butler 1-4, M.James 0-3). Team rebounds: 10. Blocked shots: 6 (Grant 2, Allen, M.James, Stepania, R.Butler). Turnovers: 9 (Best 3, C.Butler 3, Grant, Allen, R.Butler). Steals: 7 (Allen 2, M.James 2, Jones, Stepania, Best). Technical Fouls: None. Washington16222520--83
A--16,500 (19,600). T--2:17. Officials--Ted Bernhardt, Courtney Kirkland, Derek Richardson.
Next for Wizards
Opponent: Toronto Raptors
Site: MCI Center, Washington
When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet, ESPN/WTEM (980 AM)