December 4, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) high-fives Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade (3) against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Wizards (3-17) vs. Miami Heat (14-6), 12/15

Another troubling loss for the Miami Heat, and about now is when I try to explain why they didn’t capitalize on a supposedly inferior opponent in the Golden State Warriors. But the thing is, the W’s just played a great game, and it would be wrong to take away from that. It’s a fun team to watch with a ton of talent already and even more potential, and that last play that set up Draymond Green’s go-ahead score was a thing of beauty. If you haven’t watched it a couple of times you’re doing a disservice – to see that coordination and choreography from such a young group of players shows they’re putting the work in and have bought into Mark Jackson’s coaching. They’ll be a team to reckon with down the road.

The Heat were the losers though, another night of inconsistent effort on the defensive side, a little bad luck and a bit of playing down to the opponent. When you’re the defending champions and you have a target on your back every single game, you just can’t do that. If you want to repeat, you definitely can’t do that.

Luckily, a quick bounce-back game is prepared for Miami, with the Washington Wizards coming to town. The Wizards just hosted the Heat, and since then they’ve been, well, the same team. Pretty terrible and missing their best player in John Wall. They’ve gone 1-4 since the Heat visited the Verizon Center, that win over the New Orleans Hornet 77-70. I can’t even imagine how bad that game was – Jordan Crawford led in scoring with 26 points on 38% shooting, Ryan Anderson had 11 boards to lead all player and New Orleans scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, nicely book-ending the 11 points the Wiz scored in the first. Yup, they’re still bad.

What happened last time: Unfortunately for the Heat, one of their three wins is over the defending champs, 105-101. LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all scored over 20 (26, 20 and 24 respectively) with Ray Allen and Mike Miller chipping in 11 each. Miami was narrowly out-rebounded 44-43 and lost the turnover battle, 12 to the Wizards’ 10. Washington ate the Miami defense’s lunch, 60 points in the first half and were led by Jordan Crawford’s 23 points. One of those nights where Miami again played to their opponent and simply got beat. It was ugly and unfortunately didn’t galvanize Miami into a filthy run because they’ve gone 2-2 since then.

Who to watch for: Plainly Jordan Crawford is that kind of player who will lead a bad team in scoring, have a crazy couple of nights against great teams, and never really bring long-term value to a team. Like J.R. Smith, he’s lightning in a bottle, and can win or lose the game for you. But he’s still one to watch because like J.R., he can go on one of those stretches where he hits everything. Bradley Beal looks like a promising young player, a rookie gettiny 29 minutes a game and scoring 12 a game. A little consistency and with his size (6-3, 207) he could become a very good NBA player. Emeka Okefor should be taken advantage of by Bosh or LeBron, he’s just not good enought to defend those guys. Finally, Kevin Seraphin had 16 points and 10 boards, a career highlight for him. It shouldn’t be dropping like that, but who knows.

For the Heat, LeBron hurt his shoulder in practice on Friday so he could be a little limited, but he’s still a mutant cyborg, so you probably won’t notice. Rashard Lewis started for Miami last time, but now that Shane Battier is back, expect to not see Lewis so much. Actually, Udonis Haslem started against Golden State, with Ray Allen coming off the bench before Battier, so that could be a tweak. Norris Cole should get some floor time too, instead of Terrel Harris having nearly 20 minutes the last time these teams played.

Why the Heat will win: They’re at home against the worst team in the league. If they don’t win this, there’s a real problem with motivation on this team. Either that or they’re all sick from eating bad plantains. There’s some talent on the Wizards’ roster, but there’s a reason Charles Barkley refers to them as the Washington Generals. Plus, Washington is coming off a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that will just wear you out, win or lose.

Why the Heat will lose: They once again don’t defend the perimeter, don’t pay attention to supposedly limited offensive players creeping on the weakside, and they don’t get up for the game. Admittedly it’s hard to hype yourself up too much when the stands are half-empty for the beginning of the game, but that’s how it’s been for two years, and more. It’s getting troublesome how much they’re relying on LeBron this early in the season. Of course that’s how it must be, but he’s expending a lot of energy out there. Or at least he probably is, he makes it look so easy.

Prediction: Miami 112, Washington 90. LeBron has a closed door meeting and he and the other two Heatles get this team back on the right track. Nobody on the Wizards will score over 10 points. It will be a laugher from the first quarter. Of course, this all sounds insane considering what’s happened so far this year, but that’s what we expect, and what should happen.

Tags: Game Preview Miami Heat

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