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MIAMI — The Miami Heat’s starters aren’t necessarily finishers … while the Washington Wizards have a star who is playing like one.
That’s the backdrop for Saturday night’s game at AmericanAirlines Arena between the host Heat (35-31) and the Wizards (38-28).
The Heat are getting major contributions from reserves. In Thursday’s 108-99 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Miami’s bench scored 25 of the Heat’s 35 fourth-quarter points. Overall, Miami’s bench scored 46 points on 50 percent shooting and also grabbed 26 rebounds.
“We have a lot of versatility,” Heat reserve guard Wayne Ellington said after Miami shot 72.2 percent in the fourth quarter. “There is strength in numbers. Take away one thing, and we have something else for you. Everybody has to be ready to contribute.”
Indeed, the Heat has just three active players who have been starters every time they have been healthy this season — point guard Goran Dragic, wing Josh Richardson and center Hassan Whiteside.
Dion Waiters had been the starting shooting guard. But he lasted just 30 games before having to undergo season-ending surgery on his left ankle.
Once he went down, the Heat have rotated numerous players for the two remaining starting spots.
But, no matter who starts, the Heat seem to have plenty in reserve, which is what they hope happens when they play the Wizards on Saturday.
If Heat coach Erik Spoelstra repeats his lineup from Thursday, he will have a bench comprised of Ellington and Dwyane Wade at guard, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Luke Babbitt and Rodney McGruder at forward and Bam Adebayo at center.
Babbitt and McGruder did not play on Thursday (coach’s decision), but they could be back in action on Saturday. After all, Babbitt had been a starter as recently as Tuesday’s 117-113 overtime loss at the Wizards, and McGruder played 19 minutes that game.
You just never know with Miami, which has won three of its past four games. The only loss during that stretch came against the Wizards.
And while the Heat go with a versatile approach, the Wizards — especially since the injury to star point guard John Wall — are relying more and more on shooting guard Bradley Beal.
And Beal is not shrinking from the challenge.
“Like I always say, win or lose, it’s going to be on my shoulders,” Beal told The Washington Post.
On Friday, in a 116-97 rout over the New Orleans Pelicans, Beal wasn’t needed as much, scoring just 16 points in 29 minutes.
Instead, the Wizards got significant contributions from starters Otis Porter Jr. (19 points) and Markieff Morris (17 points).
Perhaps that means Beal’s shooting stroke will be well rested for the Heat, a team he burned for 30 points in 43 minutes on Tuesday. Beal made 12-of-16 shots from the floor in that game, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range. He also had seven assists and six rebounds.
There is no question that Beal’s ability has earned the respect of Wade, the Heat veteran.
“This Bradley Beal right here is the Bradley Beal you always thought he would be,” Wade told the media after Tuesday’s 30-point explosion. “Being without John Wall has helped him grow as a leader and as a player. He is seeing the game differently because he has the ball so much.”