Hawks silence Wizards with OT win Without trash-talking, Atlanta prevails, 107-102, despite Strickland's 37

January 12, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Atlanta Hawks guard Steve Smith had earned the right to have the last word.

Instead, after yesterday's 107-102 overtime win over the Washington Wizards, Smith made a motion with his hand as if to zip his mouth shut. And then he cuffed his mouth with one hand, seemingly holding back laughter as he walked off.

In contrast to an overabundance of trash-talking in Atlanta's home win over Washington on Friday, both teams seemed more restrained but the result was the same. And despite being very vocal in promising payback, the Wizards were silenced again.

The loss was just the second in 12 games at the MCI Center for the Wizards, who dropped back to .500 (19-19) despite a career-high 37 points from Rod Strickland. Both of their MCI Center losses -- the other came against Indiana -- have occurred against a team from the division in which perhaps the best basketball in the league is being played, the Central.

Although Smith was silent on the court -- since the officials had warned the teams prior to the game that they would not allow a replay of what happened on Friday -- Smith did have the final word afterward.

"You talk the talk, you got to walk the walk," said Smith, who finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists. "I didn't say anything. I was quiet."

Quiet is probably the best word to describe the first-half play of the Wizards. If not for the combined 29 first-half points by Strickland and Chris Webber, it could have been a lot worse for Washington than the 53-42 halftime deficit.

In the first half, the Wizards were slow to loose balls and not aggressive on the boards. Atlanta had a 12-4 advantage in second-chance points, capitalizing on the failure of the Washington front-line players to box out.

"The Eastern Conference is too competitive to come back from a deficit," said a disappointed Washington coach Bernie Bickerstaff. "I don't think we competed in the area you need to compete in, and that's rebounding."

Bickerstaff must have been very verbal with his concerns at the half, because Washington rallied after falling behind by 15 points in the third.

A 22-7 Wizards run, capped by Webber's three-pointer with 2: 51 left in the third, pulled them into a tie at 66. In the fourth, Washington took its largest lead, 80-76, after a three-pointer by Tracy Murray with 9: 25 left.

But Atlanta got back in the game behind the shooting of Tyrone Corbin, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and in the five-minute overtime. When Atlanta went to the low post, it was usually Corbin's defender who doubled. And the 12-year veteran nailed one open shot after another when the ball was swung his way.

"Ty Corbin was their MVP," said Webber, who finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds. "He hit some big buckets."

Still, Washington had a chance to win the game in regulation. Trailing by one, Strickland, who added 10 assists and eight rebounds, was fouled with 10 seconds left. He tied the game at 93 with his first free throw but didn't convert the second.

But Smith missed a potential game-winning shot for Atlanta in the final seconds, sending the game into overtime.

And Washington never led in the overtime, which Corbin opened by hitting two straight jumpers. Washington hit just two of nine shots in the extra session, leading to the failed promise on the payback win and silence in its locker room.

"It wasn't about revenge, it was about getting a win," Howard said. "We think we're a better team."

With a 0-3 record against Atlanta this season -- the last two without injured Hawks guard Mookie Blaylock -- that is debatable.

NOTES: Calbert Cheaney (tendinitis in his right knee) played just five minutes. Webber has scored at least 20 in nine straight.

Pub Date: 1/12/98

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