At the beginning of the season, it was difficult to imagine a starting lineup with Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, and Joel Anthony holding the Miami Heat’s franchise record for wins in the balance.
It would be even harder to imagine that lineup successfully coming through and pulling out a victory.
Without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem, a starting lineup that featured four bench players was capable of pulling out a 103-98 victory over a Washington Wizards team that had been recently seen its best basketball being played.
John Wall came in playing with something to prove, but his 17 points, 11 assists, and 9 rebounds were not enough. Wall needed 18 shots and struggled tremendously with his notoriously weak jumper.
Ray Allen led all scorers with 23 points, 11 coming in a pivotal fourth quarter where the Heat put together a 12-0 run that created enough of a margin to stave off any Wizards’ comeback.
Allen was only 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. On a regular team that spells disaster. But this is the Heat. So it was only natural that Shane Battier and Mike Miller combined to shoot 9-of-14 from three-point range.
The Heat attempted a franchise-record 41 threes on a night where they set the franchise record for wins in a season with 62. The previous record belonged to the 1996-’97 team.
It’s also the first time in Heat history that they will have the best record in the NBA. They now officially have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
Miami converted 17 of their record number of attempts and it was the staple of their offense on a night they were missing their top three scorers in the paint. The ball was moving well, despite 22 turnovers being committed.
Nearly half of those came in the first. Mario Chalmers, who had four turnovers, eventually settled down to finish with 14 points (3-of-7 from three) and eight assists.
Miller had six turnovers, but negated it with another night of great shooting as well as eight rebounds for a Heat team playing without its starting power forward and center. He led all Heat rebounders.
The Wizards held a 74-71 lead with 10:23 remaining in the fourth after a pair of A.J. Price free throws. They wouldn’t score a point over the next three minutes and that was enough for the Heat to pull away.
Miami forced three turnovers in the game-changing moments. James Jones and Rashard Lewis each had three-pointers as facilitators.
Washington pulled within one with 4:59 play after a Kevin Seraphin hook, only to see Ray Allen score six consecutive points to put it away for good.
Chris Andersen shot 6-of-6 from the line in the fourth. He converted all eight of his attempts.
Miami returns home with the Boston Celtics awaiting for the fourth and final matchup of the regular season series. The Heat won the previous meeting 105-103 in Boston thanks to LeBron’s game-winning jumpers with ten seconds left.