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Game 9: Washington Wizards at Miami Heat

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Our middling Heat face its last-place division rival tonight, hosting the 1-5 Washington Wizards. Gilbert Arenas is hurt, Brenden Haywood is hurt, and DeShawn Stevenson can't feel his face, though that is more a psychosomatic condition than a physical ailment.

Any objective viewer would notch this in the Heat's W column, but we all know NBA basketball is impossible to predict, and this Miami team is particularly hard to gauge. Given the way it beat San Antonio and competed with Portland, we should be good. But the Wiz has plenty of weapons left to get out of SoFla with win Numero Dos. That's why they play the games or whatever.

Matchup of the night: Antawn Jamison vs. Michael Beasley.

A compelling battle of a vintage tweener forward against a spanking new one. Jamison has long perfected the kind of hybrid frontcourt game that Beasley is crafting now. He started with a sturdy, sensible work vest made of those infuriating little flippy jump hooks and has steadily added pieces of flair over the course of his career, tacking on a fadeaway and a deep stroke to eventually become the elite offensive weapon he is today. Beasley would do well to rip a page or two from Jamison's best-selling book and base chapters of his own promising story on the valuable information he finds.

Opposing player I'm scared of: Caron Butler.

Caron Butler in a Wizards uniform. Banner in the rafters. Caron Butler in a Wizards uniform. Banner in the rafters. Bittersweet much?

You may feel pangs of regret about sacrificing a strong young frontcourt to the pursuit of a championship, even though that pursuit was consummated with the elusive title. Those pangs of regret will really hurt tonight as you watch former Heat lottery pick and Shaquille O'Neal trade chip Butler playing the game, all matured into exactly the stud we projected him to be. Try not to picture how beautiful a Dwyane Wade/Butler/Lamar Odom trio would look skipping to and fro at the AAA. Just remind yourself: the NBA is all about titles, and we got one. So it was all worth it. Right?