Jan 15, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) holds the ball as Washington Wizards small forward Trevor Ariza (1) defends in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Wizards at Heat preview: Game Time, Key Match Up, Notes and Prediction

After getting a road win against the Milwaukee Bucks, who are widely considered the worst team in the NBA, the Washington Wizards will face much stiffer competition tonight against the defending champions Miami Heat. The game will tip off at 7:30 from the American Airlines Arena.

Key Match Up:

Scoring just 17 points on 8-23 shooting from the field in 45 minutes of action, LeBron James is coming off one of his worst individual performances of the season in an overtime game against the Chicago Bulls last night. The Heat have lost three straight games and LeBron is due for a big game at home. He’s had trouble with his shooting in the past few games and the Heat haven’t really picked up the slack.

With that said, Trevor Ariza will have a lot on his plate tonight against Miami. Ariza scored 28-points on 9-12 shooting against the Bucks on Saturday, but the Wizards will need his contributions on the defensive side of the floor more than anything. Keeping LeBron away from the basket is nearly impossible, but Ariza has to force him to take tough shots from the perimeter. Given how bad he’s shot from the outside over the past few games, I’m sure the Wizards will live with any shots LeBron knocks down outside of the paint. If Ariza gets beat off the dribble, which I’m sure is going to happen from time to time, Washington’s big men have to do a better job of rotating over for help defense. Without Nene in the lineup, Washington will inevitably struggle defensively, but that can’t be the case against Miami.

Notes:

  • The Wizards will likely miss Kevin Seraphin again tonight. He’s going to miss his seventh consecutive game with a knee issue, which is still “day-to-day”.
  • Miami grabs the least rebounds per game of any team in the NBA. Marcin Gortat and Trevor Booker have to control the boards tonight.
  • Trevor Ariza has been shooting over 60% from three since the All-Star break. I’ll be interested to see if he can keep it up against LeBron tonight.

Prediction:

The Heat can’t afford to lose at home to a middling team like the Wizards and I don’t think Washington will have enough fire power to pull off another upset over Miami, especially without Nene patrolling the paint.

Miami is one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA and the Wizards should be able to dominate inside. Marcin Gortat has been terrific since Nene went down and I expect him to have another big game tonight against Miami. Trevor Booker will also be faced with a tough task in defending Chris Bosh, but Washington will also need him to contribute on the boards.

John Wall had an atrocious outing against the Bucks on Saturday and he has to do a better job of staying aggressive. He’s settled for way too many jump shots and he can’t do that against the Heat, especially since they lack size on the inside.

The Wizards are really going to miss Nene tonight and the Heat will come out ready to snap their losing streak. Let’s just hope the Wizards could keep it respectable.

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