As it was, the Gilbert Arenas and his teammates finally lifted a burden that had dogged them for 3½ years. Though they nearly blew a 25-point lead, the Wizards held on and ended a 16-game losing streak to the Heat with a 106-95 victory Friday night.
"Finally," Arenas said. "We'll take it, no matter who's out there on the floor. We finally got the little monkey off our back."
The Wizards' win over their Southeast Division rivals was their first since Michael Jordan led a 91-87 victory in Miami on April 11, 2003 -- Jordan's last win in his NBA career. The leading scorer for the Heat that day was a rookie named Caron Butler, who turned the tables Friday and led Washington with 30 points and nine rebounds.
"Me personally, I got over one, too," said Butler, who was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in the O'Neal trade and later to the Wizards in the Kwame Brown deal. "Ever since I've been traded, I haven't beaten those guys, so it felt good to get that monkey off my back."
Arenas added 27 points, snapping his streak of five consecutive games with 30 or more. Antawn Jamison had 22 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots for the Wizards, who led 40-17 after a first quarter in which they shot 76 percent and held a 26-0 advantage in fast-break points.
The Wizards have won five of six and are 9-3 at home. They improved to 11-11 overall, reaching .500 for the first time since mid-November, when they were 3-3. Now they're off on a four-game West Coast trip.
"Last year, we started off the season hot, and we hit December and tanked it," Arenas said. "This December, we're playing great basketball."
James Posey made seven of 11 3-pointers and scored a season-high 26 points, Alonzo Mourning scored 17 points, and rookie Chris Quinn set season highs in minutes (25), points (9) and assists (5) for the Heat. Posey, Quinn and Robert Hite came off the bench to help lead a run that cut the deficit to 11 at halftime, and coach Pat Riley rewarded all three by putting them in the lineup to start the second half.
The Wizards' losing streak to the Heat included a four-game sweep in the second round of the 2004-05 playoffs, and this was by far the best chance they had to end it. Wade missed his second game after having wisdom teeth removed, O'Neal is recovering from knee surgery, and Jason Williams sat out with a nagging leg injury, depriving Miami of three starters.
"They've got three of their go-to guys playing, and we've got three of our go-to guys out," Mourning said. "Y'all do the math on it."
The Heat committed turnovers on four of their first five possessions and provided the game's most laughable moment when Michael Doleac threw a pass straight to Posey. The only problem was that Posey wasn't in the game - he was standing out of bounds in front of the bench.
After their second quarter surge, the Heat hung around in the third quarter and cut the lead to three on Posey's three-point play, but Jamison answered with a four-point play when Posey fouled him during a 3-pointer. Gary Payton hit back-to-back baskets to make the score 94-89 with 6 minutes remaining, but Jamison responded with a layup and a runner to start a 12-6 game-ending run.
"We just dig ourselves so big a whole," Riley said. "We did it the other night against Phoenix and tonight was just ungodly, the start that we had - just getting blown right off the face of the earth in the first quarter two games in a row."
- Riley said he expects Wade, who did not make the trip to Washington, to return to the lineup for Saturday's home again against Memphis. "I talked to him the other day, and he was mumbling pretty good," Riley said.
- Williams also is expected to play Saturday. He rested Friday because Riley didn't want to play him on back-to-back nights.
- Wizards C Etan Thomas (sprained left ankle) will miss the upcoming road trip.
- Riley had no comment on any possible trade talks concerning Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson, while Washington coach Eddie Jordan said Iverson saga was "frivolous" for the Wizards.
- The Heat visited wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and had a tour of the Pentagon on Thursday. O'Neal said he was especially touched after meeting several amputees, some of whom were hoping to return to Iraq. "This little injury I got," O'Neal said, referring to his knee, "it ain't nothing."
- A moment of silence was held before the game in memory of Joshua Freeman, a member of the Wizards ownership group. Freeman, 42, died in a helicopter crash in Delaware on Thursday night.