Wizards start fast, rout Heat Webber, Howard cold, but Wash. rolls, 88-74

December 18, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- It was shaping up to be a difficult evening for the Washington Wizards. They had already lost twice to the Miami Heat this season, and just before game time the visitors announced that All-Star center Alonzo Mourning, who hadn't played this season because of a knee injury, would suit up for the first time.

So what happens? The Wizards go up by as many as 20 points in the first quarter. And 25 in the first half. And, despite a game in which Chris Webber and Juwan Howard shot a combined 7-for-33 from the field, the Wizards came away an 88-74 winner before 19,411 at the MCI Center.

The victory allowed Washington to maintain its perfect record (6-0) at its new home.

"We wanted to win this game -- we felt we let two slip away [to Miami]," Webber said. "We also have to beat the better teams in our division if we want to be respected. We beat a good team in our division [last night]."

But even though Webber and Howard struggled, even though the team shot 37.3 percent, and even though Mourning had 24 points off the bench, the Wizards still won. How? Consider that All-Star point guard Tim Hardaway was scoreless in 27 minutes. He missed all six of his shots from the field, and his only free throw. That was the first time in his three seasons with Miami (except for a game where an injury limited him to seven minutes) that Hardaway failed to score a point.

"He went scoreless?" Webber asked, his eyebrows raised, when told of Hardaway's tough night. "That will never happen again."

Hardaway's counterpart, Rod Strickland, was coming through with a gutsy performance. Several times Strickland fell hard on his heavily wrapped right hand, which he injured in a fight with teammate Tracy Murray last week. And several times he had to come out of the game. But he finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Strickland, who has struggled with his shot since the fight, hit seven of 12 shots from the field.

"Things happen and you just have to stay tough and keep playing," said Strickland, who later became irritated with continuous questions about his hand. "When I went down on it [late in the fourth quarter], I felt a funny sensation and it stung. But it's OK. And that's the last time I'm talking about my hand. It's OK."

The Heat is not OK, losing consecutive games for the first time this season.

Miami was never able to recover from its 12-point first quarter during which just one starter, Isaac Austin, scored. Mourning tried to bring Miami back in the third when he scored 11 points that helped cut the lead to nine points.

But Mourning's attempt at bullying tactics, which have worked in the past against Washington, failed. That's because Wizards center Terry Davis stood up to Mourning. At one point in the third quarter the two had to be separated when Davis was unhappy about a Mourning shove.

"I'm not going to back down to anyone. [Mourning] puts on his underwear the same way that I do," Davis said.

(Box score, 3D)

Pub Date: 12/18/97

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