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Miami Heat vs Washington Wizards

Miami (3-1) at Washington (2-2)

The Miami Heat won their first three games with solid defense, but they couldn’t slow down the league’s highest-scoring team last time out.

The Heat look to bounce back from their first loss and return to form on the defensive end Wednesday night when they visit a Washington Wizards team that has been inconsistent on offense.

Miami (3-1) was 12 minutes away from opening with four straight wins for the first time since 2004-05 before falling apart down the stretch in Tuesday’s 104-96 loss to Phoenix.

The Heat led 81-75 after three quarters but couldn’t come up with key stops as the Suns made 10 of 16 shots in the fourth.

Miami allowed Phoenix to shoot 50.6 percent from the floor and make 9 of 23 3-pointers (39.1 percent) after giving up an average of 87.7 points on 38.6 percent shooting - including 21.6 percent from beyond the arc - in its first three games.

“Our problem was with our defense and we need to get better with that,” said Quentin Richardson(notes), who scored 18 points against the Suns after totaling 13 in his first three games.

The Heat may also need to shore up some problems on the offensive end when faced with different defensive sets. Phoenix switched to a zone defense in the fourth quarter Tuesday, and Miami missed 18 of 23 shots in the period.

“We didn’t execute well against the zone,” said Dwyane Wade(notes), who had 23 points along with season highs of nine rebounds and seven assists. “It’s a different wrinkle that you’re not used to seeing. It’s still early in the season and we have to do a lot of practice on that. We’ll be better next time.”

Wade and the Heat hope to get back on track against a Wizards team coming off its worst offensive performance of the season.

After connecting on 61.5 percent of its shots in Saturday’s 123-104 victory over New Jersey, Washington (2-2) shot 39.1 percent in a 102-90 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday. The Wizards led by four at halftime but were limited to 36 second-half points.

“I think when we play how we want to play, execute, trust each other, we’re pretty good,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said. “When we don’t do that, when we start doing too much, we get stagnant. When you’re not scoring, it affects you defensively, it sucks the energy out of you sometimes.”

The Wizards have struggled to stick with this game plan.

Alternating wins and losses, Washington is averaging 112.5 points on 53.7 percent shooting in its two victories but 89.5 points on 41.9 percent shooting in the two defeats.

Caron Butler(notes) got off to a fast start Tuesday with 17 first-half points and finished with 22, tied with Gilbert Arenas(notes) for the team lead.

Butler, back after missing one game with a bruised left knee, is averaging 25.7 points on 58.7 percent shooting in his last three home games against Miami, the team with which he spent his first two NBA seasons.

Arenas, averaging 26.5 points through four games, has missed eight of the last nine games in this series due to various left knee injuries.

The Heat swept the four-game season series from the Wizards last season, outscoring them by an average of 15.7 points.

With Miami easily winning those games, it didn’t have to rely much on Wade. The five-time All-Star averaged 22.5 points against Washington - 7.7 points below his league-leading average and his third-worst mark against any opponent last season.

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