Once more, Wizards are homely, 89-79 Indecisive shooting hurts versus Spurs

January 15, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- For the Washington Wizards, getting good shots against the San Antonio Spurs last night wasn't a problem.

In fact, against a team that boasts defensive specialists Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the looks the Wizards got were mostly unobstructed. Washington's problem at the MCI Center was what it did when it got those open looks.

On a team that is generally not shy about shooting, the Wizards surprisingly passed up most of their easy shots. And when they did shoot, the result wasn't anything to write home about as they lost their third straight, 89-79, to a Spurs team that got a combined 50 points and 31 rebounds from Robinson and Duncan.

For the third straight game, the Wizards shot under 40 percent (36.1) and managed just 30 points in the second half (13 in the fourth quarter, when they scored just two in the final three minutes after slicing a nine-point deficit to one).

To no one's surprise, that poor shooting has resulted in the streak that, with last night's loss, dropped Washington to below .500 (19-20) as the midpoint of the season approaches.

What was once seen as a chance to make a move in the Eastern Conference standings in January, when the team plays the majority of its games at home, has instead resulted in a struggle as Washington, after winning its first eight games at the MCI Center, has now dropped three of five there.

"Yeah, it's disappointing to be under .500," Wizards guard Rod ++ Strickland said. "But those 39 games are over, and we have to look forward to the rest of the season. I don't think we're playing bad. San Antonio is playing as well right now as they have all season. We've lost three games to two quality teams [Atlanta swept a home-and-home series]."

Still, this was a night on which the Spurs were ripe to be had. For one, they were playing their second of back-to-back games. And Robinson, the league's third-leading scorer, didn't play particularly well offensively (seven of 24 from the field), although he did score 22 points.

Duncan carried the offensive load as he scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

"He's consistent," Robinson said of Duncan. "One thing about rookies is you don't know if they're gonna be there night in and night out. But he's there night in and night out."

Had Washington been consistent in hitting open shots, Strickland (16 points, 12 assists) might have been able to pad his league-best assist average. At times, the Wizards took the open shots and missed. At other times, they passed up the open looks, upsetting coach Bernie Bickerstaff.

"I want my players to take the shots when they have open shots," Bickerstaff said. "You get the shot, you can't hesitate. We had some great shots. You're supposed to pull the string. Shoot."

Chris Webber led the Wizards with 27 points, marking the 10th straight game he has gone over 20. But after making six of his first eight shots, Webber missed 13 of his next 20.

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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