Ever since scoring a career-high 61 points against the Charlotte Bobcats last week, LeBron James has not played up to par. The result? The Miami Heat went a dismal 0-3 on their just-concluded road trip, with losses to the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls. The Bulls loss in overtime Sunday afternoon was especially disheartening, as Chicago dominated Miami in overtime, simply outworking the Heat.
The good news? The Indiana Pacers have lost four straight games, and the Heat and Pacers both have 17 losses. Additionally, the Thunder suffered an embarrassing loss to the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday afternoon and dropped to 17 losses. Miami has not lost ground in the standings thanks to the latest skid.
Even great teams go through regular-season malaise. The Heat simply need to refocus and start another winning streak. Miami will host the Washington Wizards Monday at 7:30. This game could very well get the Heat amped up, thanks to the three-game losing streak, the Wizards' resurgence as a playoff team and the sting of January's stunning blowout loss returning to mind.
This Washington team isn't the same as the one that has played the Heat for the last few years. For the first time since the Gilbert Arenas era, the Wizards are over .500. Miami simply has to remind this upstart team that a huge gap still exists between the defending champions and the rest of the Southeast Division. The Heat, when playing how it played on its recent eight-game winning streak, should have little trouble defeating the Wizards. James and Chris Bosh can't afford to keep playing below their average.