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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Howard Faces the Heat as Bullets Melt

MIAMI -- The signs behind the Washington Bullets' bench Monday night said, "$ell Out'' and "We Didn't Juwant Him Any Way.'' Give the Miami Heat fans credit. Nothing was spelled wrong. Even the large printing was solid elementary school level.


The crowd's boos started as soon as Juwan Howard set foot on the court and continued all night every time he touched the ball. Every single time. Even when Howard came out as hot as the Bullets' red uniforms, matching his season high with a dozen points in the first quarter on perfect 5-for-5 shooting, the $105 million forward still got the hot sneaker treatment. Only his fouls were cheered.


The fans here hate Howard for ditching their team and its $101 million contract last summer. When the going got tough and NBA brass frowned, claiming the Heat had miscalculated its salary cap, it took Howard six nanoseconds to protect his interests and jump back to the Bullets for $105 million.


Anybody sane would have done the same, of course. If Howard had challenged the league -- and lost -- he might have lost tens of millions of dollars in the fast-shrinking free agent market. But Howard was so quick at this high-stakes game of musical chairs, and so cheerful about the outcome, that Miami couldn't miss the message. What he loved about the Heat was the color of their money. Howard would rather be in Washington with his pal Chris Webber.


Miami hasn't forgotten. Monday night, the Heat made this annoyed town mighty happy with its 98-95 victory. The Bullets may have Howard, but the Heat and its fans left no doubt they think they have the better team and the last laugh.


Who needs superstars with nine-figure guaranteed contracts when you've got P.J. Brown, Keith Askins, Sasha Danilovic, Isaac Austin and Voshon Lenard? You know them, right? The Bullets know 'em, that's for sure. That's who beat 'em.


As has been the case much of the season, the Bullets had their stats, and a nice too-little-too-late comeback to give them solace. Howard finished with 23 points and eight rebounds. Webber even had an off-balance but makeable 3-point shot from the top of the circle with four seconds left which would have put the Bullets ahead, 98-97.


However, it was the injured Heat which had passionate team defense, fierce rebounding despite a lack of size and which ended up with yet another win in what has become a stunningly improbable 26-10 season.


Hawks 93, Cavaliers 79. In Cleveland, Christian Laettner scored 25 points as Atlanta won its sixth straight.


Laettner hit a high-arcing three-pointer to start an 11-2 run at the beginning of the fourth quarter that sent the Cavaliers to their fourth straight loss and fifth in eight games.


Suns 105, Mavericks 98. In Dallas, Cedric Ceballos scored 26 points in his first game back with Phoenix, and the Suns avoided blowing a 26-point, third-quarter lead.


Dallas trailed by 11 points at the start of the fourth quarter, but rallied to tie it 95-95 on former Sun Michael Finley's free throw with 2:06 to play.


The Suns retook the lead on two free throws from Danny Manning with 1:32 left, and Phoenix opened a 99-95 lead on Kevin Johnson's 14-foot jumper with 55.2 seconds remaining.


Jim Jackson's layup with 49.2 seconds left pulled the Mavericks within 99-97, but Ceballos, who began his NBA career in Phoenix and was traded back to the Suns last week by the Los Angeles Lakers, worked inside for a layup with 33.3 seconds left to close out the Mavericks' comeback. (WP, AP)


(For other results, see Scorecard.)