Wizards revert to losing form against Mavs

Familiar struggles trouble Washington again, 103-85

Pro Basketball

January 07, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - It's too bad for the Washington Wizards they couldn't bottle up the good things that have happened over the past 10 days, for they could have used them in last night's 103-85 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Virtually all of the bad things that had happened to the Wizards over the past two months, from spotty defense to inopportune turnovers to shooting slumps, reared their collective ugly heads in a game in which Washington (7-27) led by seven during a stretch in the second quarter and out-rebounded the Mavericks by two overall and by nine on the offensive glass.

But Dallas (22-13) - led by budding star Dirk Nowitzki, who had a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds, and center Shawn Bradley, who came off the bench to grab 17 rebounds - shot 50 percent from the floor, making two more baskets than Washington on 23 fewer attempts.

The result: The Wizards dropped their second straight, and their 16th over the past 19 games, before 12,741 at MCI Center.

"I thought we allowed their abilities and the pressure that they put on us because they shot the ball so well to affect us," Washington coach Leonard Hamilton said. "They seemed to make their baskets so easily and psychologically, it threw us off. They have a lot of weapons, and we got caught trying to play the same kind of game they played."

The Mavericks seized control of the game with a 22-10 run near the end of the first half to take a halftime lead, then, with the 7-6 Bradley clogging the middle, forced Washington to settle for jump shots, which is decidedly not a team strength.

"Psychologically, you have such difficulty shooting over [the] top of him [Bradley]. Even when you're not attacking him, you're doing things because he's in there," Hamilton said. "You go away from him, guys don't post up as much and he creates a mindset that's hard to overcome unless you have a big man who is shooting well from the perimeter."

Nowitzki, a 7-footer in his third year from Germany, was the Dallas revelation last night, making nine of 16 shots in the final three quarters after not taking a shot in the first. When he wasn't hitting a three-pointer on the wing, he was posting up the Washington forwards and drawing contact, going to the line, where he hit seven of eight attempts.

"They did a good job of utilizing their talent and we didn't match up very well. And we didn't shoot nearly as well as we're capable of," said Hamilton.

Said Washington forward Juwan Howard: "I just thought that we just missed some shots that we normally make. And you look back and you say you have to give Dallas credit. True enough, they did do a good job, but we hurt ourselves. During a season, you have games like that. You just have to find a way to make sure they don't happen again."

Washington point guard Rod Strickland, who missed the past four games because of suspension or injury, was not present last night, and for the first time since Strickland's absence, his replacement, Chris Whitney, had an average game, with 11 points and eight assists, but three turnovers.

Howard, Felipe Lopez and Richard Hamilton each scored 16 for Washington, but the trio combined for only 10 points in the fourth quarter, when the Mavericks outscored the Wizards 28-19.

Combined with Thursday's buzzer-beating loss to Chicago, last night's loss is the kind that could send the Wizards, who meet the Knicks at Madison Square Garden tonight, into a downward spiral.

Said Howard: "We're not going to allow that to happen. We're professionals. We've come too far and overcome a lot of adversity. There's no reason for us to be settling back and letting a lot of negativity set in. We're going to go out here and we're going to have some fun, baby."

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