Wizards leave Brovelli at loss in debut, 97-93

New coach watches Marbury lift Nets

April 07, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- In their first game under new coach Jim Brovelli, the Washington Wizards yielded the same old results.

No, it didn't come by way of the fourth-quarter fade that the team seems to have made its own much of this season. But against a New Jersey Nets team that is in last place in the Atlantic Division, the Wizards came up short when it counted in last night's 97-93 loss at the MCI Center.

It was the third straight defeat for Washington (13-20), which saw its slim playoff chances fade even further. For the Nets, a team that also went through a recent coaching change with the firing of John Calipari, the win extended their season-best winning streak to four games.

In the end, it came down to one big-game player making plays and another coming up short.

The big-play guy for New Jersey was point guard Stephon Marbury, who scored 29 points -- eight of them in a span of just over four minutes in the fourth quarter. He also had six assists.

A less memorable night was had by Wizards guard Mitch Richmond, who was coming off a miserable, 3-for-15 shooting performance in Sunday's loss to the Miami Heat -- Bernie Bickerstaff's final game as Washington's coach.

In the final two minutes alone last night, with the Wizards attempting to stay in the game. Richmond missed a driving layup and mishandled a pass that seemed to promise an easy score. He finished with 14 points, going scoreless in the fourth quarter, when he missed all six of his shots. Richmond was 5-for-17 from the field.

Though the Wizards briefly held a one-point lead in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, their fade began in the third, when they blew an eight-point lead and went into the final period trailing, 75-74.

After falling behind by as many as five points in the final period, Washington came back to tie the game at 87 after a jumper by Rod Strickland with 4: 18 left.

But Marbury responded with a three-pointer, increasing New Jersey's lead to 90-87. And the Wizards went over three minutes without a score after Juwan Howard had tied the game.

While many in the arena had left by the time the final horn sounded, those that stayed booed the Wizards as their losing streak reached three games.

Prior to his first game as interim head coach, Brovelli said that he wanted his team to play with confidence. And whether it had something to do with the coaching change, or an opponent that had just eight wins going in, the Wizards did appear a bit looser in the early going last night.

Still, they suffered some defensive lapses, at one point allowing the Nets four straight field goals on either layups or dunks. When Kendall Gill stole an errant Richmond pass and converted it with a dunk with 3: 01 left. the Nets had their biggest lead of the quarter, 25-19.

But Washington's defense was tougher the rest of the period, keeping the Nets scoreless over the final three minutes. New Jersey basically played with three men on offense, as Marbury, Gill and Keith Van Horn scored all of the team's first-quarter points, leading 25-23.

In the second quarter, the Wizards got a rare hot-shooting effort from reserve guard Calbert Cheaney, who hit his first four shots. Cheaney scored half of Washington's points during a 12-2 run to open the period.

Washington's biggest lead of the half, 41-31, came after Howard tipped in a Strickland miss with 4: 16 left. But the Nets rallied and outscored Washington 14-7.

When Kerry Kittles scored on a fast-break dunk with 27 seconds left, the Nets -- despite being outshot from the field, 51.1 percent to 42.2 -- were within 48-45.

Richmond hit two straight three-pointers to start the third quarter, and Washington was able to increase its lead to 58-50 after a layup by Strickland with 8: 53 left.

After Howard scored on a dunk for a 60-53 advantage with 4: 08 left, the Wizards seemed to have control of the game. But right about that time, Strickland, who to that point had done a nice job containing Marbury, sat down. And within a span of 30 seconds, Marbury took back-up point guard Jeff McInnis to school, scoring on two layups and hitting a free throw.

Pub Date: 4/07/99

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