Originally created 05/12/05

Wizards dig deep for inspiration against the Heat



WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards have been here before, down 2-0 in a best-of-seven series. They know what it takes to come back and win, even with a short-handed lineup.

Coach Eddie Jordan can call on those experiences to help motivate his team.

But when it comes to beating the Miami Heat, there are no good memories to draw upon. The Wizards have lost 10 straight - and Jordan is 0-13 as a head coach - against the team that dominated the Southeast Division.

With the Heat-Wizards series moving to Washington for Games 3 and 4 on Thursday and Saturday, Jordan is playing the best card he has left: the confidence card.

"We can win," the coach said Wednesday. "Absolutely we can win the game here. We can win the game on Saturday."

The Heat control the series after 105-86 and 108-102 home victories in which they built early leads and always had more than enough to stave off a comeback. Miami has won nine in a row overall, including three games at the end of the regular season, even though Shaquille O'Neal isn't quite himself because of a bruised thigh.

The Wizards, meanwhile, can boast a seven-game home winning streak and the fact that they overcame a 2-0 series deficit to advance past Chicago in the first round. Jordan began the Miami series by telling his players to put the emotional home wins over the Bulls behind them, but he reversed course on Wednesday.

"Now we're telling our guys to remember Game 6, all the energy and all the good things we felt, and how we fought back, and the energy that we had in the building," Jordan said. "We've played with a lot of confidence at home, and that's what we expect tomorrow."

The Wizards managed to make Game 2 close as the Heat struggled with turnovers, missed free throws, offensive rebounds and a less-than-dominant O'Neal. That same combination in a road game could spell trouble.

"We cannot turn the ball over the way we have been the last two games," center Alonzo Mourning said. "Those guys are very talented and they can win some ball games. They have proven that. They will now have their whole city behind them. They don't want to go down 0-3. They are going to fight and claw."

The Wizards are running short on big bodies following Etan Thomas' abdominal injury in Game 2. Thomas isn't expected to play Thursday. Jordan on Wednesday ruled out any possibility of reinstating Kwame Brown - who is suspended for the playoffs - leaving Brendan Haywood and Michael Ruffin as the only two players to shove O'Neal around.

But O'Neal hasn't been the major problem. The Wizards haven't been able to stop Dwyane Wade, who had 31 points, 15 assists and seven rebounds in Game 2. Wade is shooting 50 percent from the field for the playoffs and is averaging 9.5 assists.

In fact, when asked whether Wade was a bigger threat than O'Neal, Wizards guard Larry Hughes paused a bit before coming up with a diplomatic answer.

"He handles the ball more, plays more minutes, so he's always a constant threat, always a guy that will be aggressive through any situation," Hughes said. "So, you know, I think they go well together. You won't have a threat without the other."

And, of course, if O'Neal finds a rhythm, the Wizards could find this to be a very short series.

"Hopefully he stays this way until, I don't know when," Jordan said with a smile. "Until next year, after we win the series."