Updated: December 5, 2012, 2:24 AM ET

1. Bad Habits Finally Catch Up To Heat

By Michael Wallace

WASHINGTON -- This was an I-told-you-so moment for Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

"I think we all know the lesson," Spoelstra said after watching the last-place Washington Wizards complete the biggest upset of the young NBA season by beating the Eastern Conference-leading Heat.

"You can only go to the well so many times."

On Tuesday night, the Heat hit rock bottom and came up empty. After digging so many holes from lethargic starts and rallying so many times from so many deficits, not even a triple-double from LeBron James could direct the Heat out of this one.

Ray Allen couldn't shoot his team out, either.

Dwyane Wade, despite the spring finally returning to his legs after nagging knee and foot soreness, couldn't lift the Heat out of this one. This time, those dangerous tendencies the Heat have overcome so frequently in recent weeks caught up with them in a 105-101 loss to a Wizards team that improved to 2-13 on the season.

The Heat's six-game winning streak, a run filled with signature, come-from-behind victories, was ended by what was, for all intents and purposes, a statement loss.

And it wasn't as if the Heat couldn't see this one coming.

LeBron James
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesLeBron's triple-double wasn't enough for the Heat to get past the Wizards.

Hours before Tuesday's setback, Spoelstra, James and Wade spoke at length after shootaround on Georgetown University's campus about the potential problems looming if Miami didn't address some bad habits. But even then, there were conflicting messages within the ranks.

"We're notorious for starting off games slow, for whatever reason," Wade said Tuesday. "But we've been blessed enough to have enough talent to be able to pick it up at an extreme level. Hopefully, we can put together a 48-minute game soon, where we're playing good from start to finish."

Instead, the Heat never led Tuesday night after the early stages of the first quarter. This game got away from Miami the moment Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III walked into the building and took his courtside seat midway through the first quarter.

Griffin's presence sparked the crowd, the Wizards' bench sparked their rally and the Heat never regained their footing. They didn't match Washington's energy. They couldn't overcome the Wizards' depth. And when it was time to flip their proverbial switch to close the show, the Heat had a succession of players miss open shots late.

"Shots that we're accustomed to making didn't fall for us," said James, who had his first triple-double of the season with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in 43 minutes.

"We're an older bunch, so it takes us a little while to sort of get into the flow of the game and to figure out what's going on out there so we have to do a better job of starting the game off strong. We've got to find a way to get the energy up more for the start, instead of feeling out the game for the first 12 minutes. But we'll do a better job of that."

James, however, stopped short of suggesting there's some lesson the Heat need to take to heart from the result.

"It's no lesson from the loss. It's just a loss," James said. "We don't need a loss [to be a lesson]. We understand that every team we play is going to play their best. They're going to make shots they don't make against other teams. I mean, [Washington] had a season high with 31 assists. They scored 60 points in the first half. Teams are going to be up for us. We have to be up for teams, too."

James is right to an extent. It would be irresponsible to make too much of any one loss. Teams will have bad nights. The Heat just happened to add injury to the insult of losing to the team with the league's worst record.

The Wizards, who have been without star point guard John Wall because of a knee injury, didn't just beat the Heat. They beat them up, too. Already short-handed at point guard with backup Norris Cole sidelined with a groin strain, the Heat lost Mario Chalmers in the second quarter to a jammed finger. Wade, Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller all were limited down the stretch with nagging injuries.

With the Heat down to no available point guards, James had to regroup and play the rest of the way exclusively with the ball in his hands. He admitted after the game that playing all 24 minutes of the second half at the point took a toll late in the game. Twice, he settled for -- and missed -- long jumpers in the final minute.

Allen, who had made three game-winning 3-pointers in November, missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter against the Wizards. Wade also was a nonfactor down the stretch, taking just two shots and scoring only three of his 24 points in the fourth quarter.

The Heat's offense disappeared, but the bigger problem was that their defense never really arrived in Washington. The Wizards had five players score in double figures, with Jordan Crawford torching Miami from the outside with 22 points and Kevin Seraphin doing his best Wes Unseld impression in the paint -- particularly in the second half -- with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.

"These are the kinds of games we've been playing," Wade said. "It's not out of the ordinary for us."

It was only a matter of time before these kind of games would catch up with the Heat. Outcomes such as Tuesday's leave Spoelstra in a precarious position. Two weeks ago, he was praising his team's resilience and how his players crave the opportunity to come up big in close games.

Now, he has to resist the urge to publicly push and prod his players too much too soon. The Heat are defending champions who know seasons aren't decided in December.

"You can still strive for perfection," Spoelstra said. "You're never going to obtain it, obviously. But why try to accept something less? I don't see how that benefits you from building a habit of not playing your best or not attempting to play your best. We can't accept it. It's a reality you're not going to play great every night. But striving and pushing is part of it."

The Heat can easily dismiss a loss, even a bad one.

"We don't want to be at our best right now anyway," Wade said before Tuesday's game. "At the end of the season, we want to be playing our best basketball."

James agreed.

"We've still got a long way to go," he said.

Especially if they keep falling behind.

The previous six games, the Heat were able to rally. But in Washington, bad habits only left them reeling.

Dimes past: Nov. 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23-24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30-Dec. 1 | 3

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