Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) prepares to pass the ball as Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) and Wizards small forward Martell Webster (9) defend in the third quarter at Verizon Center. Photo by Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
WASHINGTON - LeBron James and Dwyane Wade struggled for answers Wednesday after the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat suffered a humbling 114-97 loss at Washington, their third loss in a row.
A day after celebrating in the White House with US President Barack Obama and hours after learning of the shock trade of teammate Joel Anthony over lunch, the Heat surrendered 20 points in a row in the first quarter, fell behind by 34 in the second quarter and were routed by a team that was 1-14 against teams with winning records.
"That just can't happen," James said.
"It's not physical. It's more mental than anything. It's mental fatigue. Not lack of confidence but lack of focus.
"We love adversity. We love a challenge. It's a good test for us. Teams want to see where they are when they play us. We're not accepting the challenge right now."
Asked if the White House visit to honor last season's NBA title was too big a distraction, James said, "Next question," but Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was not evading any issue.
"We have to own it. We can't sweep this under the rug," Spoelstra said. "Yesterday is not an excuse. What we had today is not an excuse."
Canadian center Anthony's trade to Boston in a salary-saving move after seven seasons with the Heat was a stunner that had players deflated.
"It sucks," Wade said. "It was hard for us, being with him earlier and finding out. It happened over lunch. It's a part of the business you don't like. You realize at that moment it could be anybody."
The Heat could be in position to sign free agent big man Andrew Bynum as a result of the shock move.
"It was very surprising for all of us," James said. "We didn't see it coming. It was tough on him but it was tough on all of us. It's tough seeing a brother go.
"It's not just basketball you have to deal with, but we will find a way. Whatever is stopping us from getting motivated, we have to throw that behind."
The Heat fell to 27-11 as the midpoint of the NBA season nears with a run of 14 games in 29 days.
"We'll get through it," James said. "We have played some bad basketball at times. We seem like we're just kind of tired. They say these are the 'dog days' but we can't let that seep into our locker room. You can have these type of moments but you have to stop it at some point."
That means not allowing the Wizards 43 points in the first quarter, their most since 2006, and 69 in the first half, their best first half since 2008.
"All this stuff will come together," Heat forward Chris Bosh said. "We just have to get back on track. Nothing spectacular.
"We have to have resolve and show character and bounce back. From the beginning we just have to have a better frame of mind."
Center Greg Oden, the 2007 NBA Draft top pick who has had multiple knee surgeries, played in an NBA game for the first time in more than four years, scoring six points in eight minutes.
"As soon as we went down 30, I figured we might as well try and reward him for the work he has put in," Spoelstra said.
After falling behind 43-18 in the first quarter, the Heat came no closer than nine in the second half.
"They smashed us in the first quarter," Wade said. "Our defense has got to be better."
Wade, who became engaged last month to actress Gabrielle Union, joked with Obama about the wedding in his White House visit.
"He said, 'When's the wedding date?'" Wade said. "I said, 'You ain't coming anyway.' He said, 'You wouldn't want me there anyway.' It's fun to be able to joke with him like that."
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