Balanced effort lets Wizards tip Knicks

Though Richmond is hurt, Wash. wins in OT, 95-89

April 15, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Juwan Howard was on the injured list with a sprained left ankle. Terry Davis was a late scratch with a bruised right shin. So when Mitch Richmond collapsed in a heap with just over two minutes left in the fourth quarter and his team trailing by two, the Washington Wizards appeared in serious trouble.

"I was thinking when it rains it pours," said Wizards point guard Rod Strickland. "That's the last guy we could afford to lose at this point."

But the Wizards could afford it in last night's 95-89 overtime win over the New York Knicks, a game that proved to be one of the more entertaining of the year for Washington. With the win, the Wizards improved to 15-23, keeping their slim playoff hopes alive and avoiding a season sweep by the Knicks.

Washington won the game with balance, as five players scored in double figures. Strickland had 18 points and 12 assists, and Otis Thorpe had 18 points, in the process becoming the 55th player in NBA history to score 17,000 points (he did so with his first basket of the game).

The Wizards' scoring attack was so balanced that Richmond, after having his injured right shoulder X-rayed, was given the green light to return to the game. But as he got to the bench and saw how the team was playing, he opted to enjoy the rest of it as an observer.

"The doctor said I could play, but when I looked at the scoreboard and then saw the guys were playing so well, I didn't want to interfere," said Richmond, who scored 17 points before suffering a pinched nerve after a collision with Allan Houston.

"I told coach [Jim Brovelli], `If you need me for a decoy, I'm here.' But really, I didn't want to mess up the flow."

Against a New York team without Patrick Ewing (sore left Achilles), the Wizards were able to close the game by scoring the final eight points in overtime.

Thorpe scored on a layup over Larry Johnson with 1: 38 to tie it at 89, and then Tracy Murray -- who appeared to have won the game in regulation with a three-pointer with 30 seconds left -- took a pass from Strickland and hit a 21-foot jumper for a 91-89 lead with 1: 04 left.

"We really swung the ball well," Murray said." I just happened to be open on that one. [Latrell] Sprewell was flying out there, and I got it off pretty quick. It happened to go in."

And that's something that hasn't happened much this season for Murray, who has struggled with his shot. He was activated off the injured list on Monday, after Howard's injury.

"If you have a shooter, you just tell him to shoot," said Brovelli of Murray. "What it is is confidence. All I told Tracy through his struggles was just shoot the ball."

Defensively, the Wizards did the job by holding the Knicks scoreless after Johnson scored on a layup and converted a three-point play with 2: 29 left. In all, the Knicks missed their final eight shots of the game. Marcus Camby had 18 rebounds and 13 assists off the bench for New York, which had a three-game winning streak ended.

"It's a great win for us," Strickland said. "It was a team victory. The Knicks are a great defensive team, but we gutted it out.

NOTES: Ben Wallace grabbed 14 rebounds, tying a career high. Tim Legler also missed the game with the flu. The Wizards shot 45.8 percent against a New York team that had held its previous three opponents to under 40 percent. Strickland has a team-leading 16 double doubles.

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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