Beal lays it on the line in Wizards victory over Heat
MIAMI — Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was asked if he could explain how a shooting guard — in this case Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards — was awarded 14 free throws in Wednesday’s night’s game.
“I can’t,” Spoelstra said.
While the Heat coach was at a loss to figure out that riddle, his team was a loss to stop the Wizards’ starting backcourt, which combined for 53 points.
John Wall had 27 points and Beal added 26 — including 13 on free throws — to lead Washington to a 102-93 victory over Miami at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Wizards coach Scott Brooks, asked the same question as Spoelstra, had a different perspective.
“That’s growth,” Brooks said of Beal’s game. “I’ve been with him for a year and a month, and he’s gotten a lot better.”
Brooks said he has preached often to Beal that if his shot isn’t falling — the Wizards star made 6-of-19 from the floor on Wednesday — that he can still impact the game defensively, rebounding and by attacking the rim.
“He can use his playmaking for himself and his teammates and to get to the line,” Brooks said.
Led by Beal, Washington made 29 of 31 from the foul line, breaking a string of five consecutive losses to Miami. The Heat made 16-of-19 free throws.
Hassan Whiteside had 14 points and 21 rebounds to lead Miami. It was his third 20-plus-rebound game of the season. Miami’s backcourt of Goran Dragic (21 points) and Dion Waiters (19) led the team in scoring.
Despite the presence of Whiteside, Washington outscored Miami in the paint 36-26.
“This is a team that has had our number the past couple of years,” Beal said of Miami, “so this was important, especially on their home court.”
Miami trailed 88-86 with 4:51 left, but Washington scored nine of the next 11 points, including six free throws by Beal and a key three-pointer by Kelly Oubre.
Four of the free throws came in one sequence. Beal was fouled by Waiters on a three-pointer. Miami’s Tyler Johnson argued the call and was hit by a technical. Beal calmly made all four free throws.
The disparity in free throws obviously did not sit well with the Heat.
“Guys are upset,” Whiteside said of Miami’s loss.
Whiteside also acknowledged that the Wall-Beal duo is hard to stop.
“Especially in transition,” Whiteside said. “You know Wall is getting out and running, and Beal is playing great basketball. There’s a reason why they are a top three team in the East.”
The Wizards (9-5) and Heat (6-8) will play a rematch Friday at Capital One Arena in Washington.
Miami, which never led in the first half, got off to a slow start, shooting just 35 percent in the first quarter, including 1 for 5 on 3-pointers. Washington took advantage, taking a 30-19 lead after the first quarter. The Wizards stretched their lead to 13 points before settling for a 61-49 halftime lead.
Washington’s outstanding shooting was on display in that first half. The Wizards converted on 52.4 percent on field goals, including 7 of 9 on 3-pointers, and 10 for 10 on free throws.
Miami woke up in the third period, taking its first lead in the game after a 17-3 run. Miami won the period 25-10 and held a slim 74-71 lead heading into the fourth. Washington, which shot so well in the first half, made only 4-of-19 in the third quarter.
But a 15-3 run in the fourth quarter spurred Washington to victory.
“They went small — that’s typically what’s going on in this league,” Spoelstra said when asked about Washington’s late roll. “They were able to attack the basket and really live in the paint.”
NOTES: Heat F Okaro White (left foot) will have surgery Thursday. There is no timetable for his return. ... The Heat came off a 3-3 road trip and have not had a winning streak longer than two games or a losing streak greater than three contests this season. ... Wizards PG John Wall on Monday received an autographed copy of a book written by New England Patriots star Tom Brady. ... Washington has the No. 1 scoring offense in the Eastern Conference and No. 2 in the NBA. ... In terms of points allowed, Miami has the No. 3 defense in the Eastern Conference.