The Washington Wizards’ 2018 season got off to a heartbreaking start, as the Miami Heat stole a 113-112 road victory Thursday night at Capital One Arena with some last-second heroics from an unlikely source.
Miami backup center Kelly Olynyk grabbed an offensive rebound after an errant Dwyane Wade jumper and put in the go-ahead basket with 0.2 seconds remaining, capping a four-minute stretch in which neither team led by more than two points.
The put-back by Olynk was a fitting conclusion to a game in which the Wizards were manhandled on the boards, particularly on the offensive end. Washington was out-rebounded 55-40. On the offensive glass, the Heat clobbered the Wizards 22-7.
“We got to man up and put bodies on bodies and rebound the basketball,” said Wizards head coach Scott Brooks. “John [Wall] did an incredible job at contesting one of the game’s great players in Wade, but we gave up the offensive rebound.
“Shot goes up, you contest the shooter,” he said. “Shot goes up, you put four bodies on guys that are not shooting the basketball. It’s as simple as that.”
Olynyk grabbed the ball cleanly after Wizards forward Markieff Morris and Jeff Green, who played his first regular season game with Washington, failed to box him out.
“With that last rebound, you’ve definitely got to put most of the ownership on me and Jeff,” Morris said. “It was a tough one tonight, but it’s the first game of the season and we’ll bounce back.”
The Wizards certainly could have used key free-agent acquisition Dwight Howard, who was ruled out of the opener as he continues to recover from a minor procedure to repair a piriformis muscle in the buttocks.
Howard, 32, an eight-time All-Star, has averaged 12.7 rebounds per game for his career. There’s still no timetable for his return to action.
Miami (1-1), coming off a loss Wednesday in Orlando, played without starting forward Justise Winslow (hamstring) and key players James Johnson (sports hernia) and Dion Waiters (left ankle).
They didn’t need them Thursday, thanks to shooting guard Josh Richardson, who had a game-high 28 points along with five assists.
Heat center Hassan Whiteside, one of the league’s top rebounders last season, was slowed by foul trouble but still grabbed 10 rebounds in almost 29 minutes of action.
The Heat only shot 39 percent from the floor, compared to Washington’s 47 percent, but Miami’s work on the glass kept them in the game.
Wall led the Wizards with 26 points and nine assists. Otto Porter Jr. scored nine points and 11 rebounds. Porter, who ranked third last year in 3-point field goal percentage, didn’t attempt one Thursday.
The team relied largely on a three-guard lineup with Morris at center position due to foul trouble. Ian Mahinmi, who started in place of Howard, scored three points with one rebound and five fouls in less than 12 minutes.
But the main problems in Thursday’s loss were defense and lack of rebounding.
“Communication could be better,” said Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal, who scored 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting. “We limited them to some tough shots, some tough contest, some weird, funky floaters, jump shots that they missed but they were able to get the rebound back, so we got to rebound.”
Washington Mystics point guard Kristi Toliver officially became the first female coach in Wizards franchise history. She’s also the first Black female coach ever hired in the NBA and the fourth woman overall behind Nancy Lieberman (Sacramento Kings), Becky Hammon (San Antonio Spurs) and Jenny Boucek (Dallas Mavericks).
Toliver, who played collegiately at the University of Maryland and won a national title her freshman year, will work as an assistant coach for player development.
During the pregame shoot-around, Toliver grabbed rebounds for players and conducted dribbling exercises with Green.
“She adds value to our staff and adds value to our program,” Brooks said after the game. “She’s one of the best players in the WNBA, [but] she’s a coach now. She’s not thinking about her player career. She’s thinking about helping us win games.”