The Washington Wizards defeated the Miami Heat on the backs of strong performances from James Harden, J.J. Redick, and Andre Drummond. Oh no, wait, it was actually Jordan McRae, Garrison Mathews, and Ian Mahinmi who allowed the Wizards to close out the decade on a high note.
McRae filled the stat sheet with 29 points (a season-high), 4 rebounds, and 8 assists (a career-high). McRae also hit 6-of-8 three-pointers. While this was definitely his best game of the season, it at least seems commensurate with his bucket-getting skill-set. Mathews had a career-high 28 points and 4 rebounds, easily his best game as a pro. But once again, it didn’t seem outside the realm of the possible given his ability to shoot from distance (4-of-7 from three).
NBA All-Star Ian Mahinmi
The stat line that seems like a truly out of body experience belonged to starting center Ian Mahinmi. If you had told me three years ago I would ever write that sentence I would have belly laughed in your face. Mahinmi had 25 points (career-high), 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
Almost more impressive than his own scoring was the defense he played on Bam Adebayo. Adebayo still finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds but Mahinmi was physical, disrupted what Adebayo wanted to do, and met drivers at the rim. I realize this isn’t the most meaningful statistic but the Heat were -23 with Adebayo on the floor and the Wizards were +6 with Mahinmi out there.
The Wizards bench, mostly on the strength of McRae and Mathews, combined for 80 points, which is a franchise record. Early in the season, it seemed like bench scoring would be a real strength for this year’s Wizards team. However, the flood of injuries has forced many of those bench players into starting roles, limiting their depth.
After being down double digits early in the first quarter and considering the number of G League players on the court, you would be forgiven for assuming the game was going to get ugly. The game actually did get ugly, just not in favor of the Heat as most would have expected. The Wizards outscored the Heat 42-24 in the second quarter to erase their deficit and actually take an eight-point lead at halftime. Mahinmi and Mathews did the majority of their damage during this stretch.
The third quarter was a bit of a rock fight with neither team looking particularly comfortable offensively. The Heat players attributed this to a lack of focus after the game, but I honestly believe the Wizards’ defense had a lot to do with it. Gary Payton II had another 3 steals and continued to play like a circling vulture on defense. “The Latvian Ladder” Anzejs Pasecniks had 10 rebounds and 2 blocks and clogged up the lane for opposing drivers.
In the fourth quarter, the Wizards relied on Ish Smith and Jordan McRae as their closers. Smith had 10 points in the quarter (19 overall) and McRae added another nine. With their next-man-up mentality and ability to hit outside shots, the Wizards showed that if they just play a modicum of defense that they can still be dangerous.
The loss drops the Heat from second to third place in the Eastern Conference and 24-9 overall. The Wizards improved to 10-22 on the season, good for 13th place in the East. The Wizards next game will be on Wednesday, 1/1, against the 14-19 Orlando Magic.