LANDOVER -- Virtually everyone else in America wrapped up their holiday-gift giving about three weeks ago, but the Washington Bullets pulled a gift out of their Christmas stocking last night in the form of a 102-94 loss to the Miami Heat before 6,522 at the Capital Centre.
The Bullets gave and gave last night until it hurt, committing 23 turnovers, passing sloppily and shooting horribly, especially in the backcourt, where guards Michael Adams and A.J. English shot a combined 9-for-28 from the field.
Miami's Glen Rice torched the Washington defense for a season-high 35 points on 12-for-17 shooting, including a clutch three-pointer with 1 minute and 20 seconds left to close the door on the Bullets.
"They made it a point to get him the ball because he was hitting," said Bullets forward Charles Jones. "He had a big night."
Harvey Grant had 28 points to lead Washington. Pervis Ellison chipped in 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Miami's Rony Seikaly had 14 points and 20 rebounds.
Despite lethargic play, the Bullets, who shot 37-for-81 from the floor, had a chance to win. Trailing 90-83 with 3:27 left, Washington made one last push to get back into the contest.
English hit a 15-footer and Larry Stewart scored inside, and when English hit two more free throws it was 93-89 with 1:41 left.
Grant cut it to 93-91, with a layup off an inbound steal, with 1:29 left.
But off a timeout, Rice hit an open three-pointer after a rebound and pass out from newly acquired guard Brian Shaw to give Miami (17-21) a 96-91 lead with 1:20 left.
"That rebound that Shaw got broke our backs," said Grant. "By the time I got out there he had already shot it."
The Bullets (14-22) squandered their last chance to win when Grant couldn't inbound the ball off a timeout with 55.8 seconds left.
All five Miami starters scored in double figures, as the Heat snapped a two-game Washington winning streak.
Neither team looked especially crisp in the first half, as they slogged their way to 24 combined turnovers, 14 by Miami. The Bullets shot 17 of 44 from the floor for the half, and Miami hit 18 of 39.
The Heat, which had snapped a four-game losing string Wednesday night in Milwaukee, took an early 6-2 lead as Bimbo Coles hit from 22 feet out on the left side, Rice banked in a short turnaround jumper and Grant Long hit a 14-footer from the right side.
Miami extended its lead to 12-5 off two free throws from Rice.
From there, Grant established his presence, hitting a banker, a baby hook with his left hand, and a lay-in as the Bullets drew to within 12-11 with 5:29 left in the first period.
However, Rice converted two more free throws, Willie Burton hit a baseline jumper and Seikaly scored to put Miami back ahead 17-11.
Grant, who had 14 in the half, then made a reverse layup and a 16-footer on the right baseline to draw Washington even with Miami at 17 with 2:47 left in the quarter.
But Long drove past Stewart for a lay-in and reserve forward Alec Kessler hit from the top of the key to give Miami a 21-19 lead at the end of the quarter.
In the second period, the two teams swapped leads. The Bullets took early command in the quarter, as rookie guard LaBradford Smith got four points on a drive and a pull-up jumper to give Washington a 27-21 lead.
But Miami went on a 10-4 run, keyed by two inside baskets by Seikaly to go back ahead 35-31.
Tom Hammonds hit a short jumper on the right side and two free throws to draw Washington even again at 37 with 3:45 left, but the Heat, on the strength of long-range shooting from Rice and inside scoring from Seikaly and Coles, took a 47-46 lead into the dressing room.