Miami Heat look to pull away in East against Washington Wizards

Dec 7, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) is pressured by Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 7, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) is pressured by Miami Heat guard Tyler Johnson (8) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /
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Game Preview for the Miami Heat’s matchup against the Washington Wizards.

Heat (19-13) vs Wizards (15-16)
Where: Verizon Center, Washington DC
When: Sunday, Jan. 3, 6 PM ET
Watch: FS-SUN, NBA League Pass

Having lost the last four meetings against John Wall and the Washington Wizards, the Miami Heat will look to snap the streak against them Sunday in the Capital, and start gaining ground in the conference standings.

With Kyrie Irving back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the race for second in the East has officially begun. The Heat, currently in fifth place, are just a game back for second place in the Eastern Conference.

To win, the Heat will need to find an answer for Wall. In his last eight games, Wall has averaged 20.1 points and passed for 11 or more assists in each game.

Matchup to Watch: John Wall vs whoever defends him

So, like I was saying… Wall is on a streak right now and Miami will have to try some things to slow him down.

Can it be Justise Winslow? Well, if he plays. He’s currently questionable for the game. Luol Deng? He might be the de facto guy for Erik Spoelstra, but he hasn’t been the lockdown defender bad color guys say he is since, like, 2013.

Goran Dragic is an almost-above-average defender at best, so he won’t likely do much to slow Wall down. Like I said, the Heat will have to try some things. This might more accurately be “John Wall vs Erik Spoelstra.”

X-Factor: Luol Deng

Luol Deng didn’t suit up for Miami’s last meeting against the Wizards on Dec. 7, with Gerald Green starting in his place.

I know I just said that Deng isn’t the defender he once was, but he’s having his best defensive season since 2013, measured by basketball-reference.com’s defensive box plus-minus statistic.

If he’s able to put a body between Wall and the basket, it could free up everyone else to, you know, do other things.

Injury Update:

Justise Winslow and Josh McRoberts are questionable.

Alan Anderson, Bradley Beal, Drew Gooden and Nene are out for the Wizards. Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair are questionable.

More heat: Top 5 Non-Kevin Durant free agent targets for the Heat

Key Stats:

Miami Heat offensive ranking: 10th, 103.2 points per 100 possessions
Miami Heat defensive ranking: 7th, 99.1 points allowed per 100 possessions

Washington Wizards offensive ranking: 19th, 101.4 points per 100 possessions
Washington Wizards defensive ranking: 19th, 103.5 points allowed per 100 possessions