Wizards fall short vs. Seattle

With chance to win, Washington fails, 104-101

Pro Basketball

January 11, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - For once, there was a bit of excitement at MCI Center at the end of a Washington Wizards game.

The Wizards, who trailed the Seattle SuperSonics by 10 points midway through the fourth quarter, staged a gritty comeback, pulling within one with 30 seconds to go and a chance to win.

However, Juwan Howard missed a baseline turnaround jumper, Tyrone Nesby, who came flying in from the right wing, could not connect with a follow-up dunk and Richard Hamilton's short jumper in the lane didn't fall.

The result: a Seattle 104-101 win, the fifth straight Washington loss.

Gary Payton, who had a team-high 20 points, hit two free throws with 5.2 seconds to go to provide the final margin, while Hamilton's three-point try with a second to go fell short.

"The guys fought really hard, but obviously the 13 turnovers we had in the first half kept us in the hole," Washington coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We got some nice defensive stops. We had good looks at the basket, but we came up a little short once again."

Leonard Hamilton, who said with pride earlier in the season that he had only been whistled for three technical fouls in his previous 28 years, got his fourth in the last four games with 6:26 to go in the fourth quarter- coming three nights after his first career ejection in the loss to New York.

The technical seemed to light a fire under the Wizards (7-30), who shaved the Seattle lead from nine to five in a three-minute burst after the foul was called.

The Sonics (19-18), who didn't hit a basket over the final 4:45, took the lead back to 10 with a basket from Vin Baker, who had 16 points off the bench. From there, however, the Wizards scored the next nine points to draw within one.

"What we're doing is taking it to another level when it appears that the game is on the line. Most teams do that and you'd like to see your team step up and give it that big effort when they feel a sense of urgency," Leonard Hamilton said. "You would like for your team to play at that pitch and at a high level for the entire game. Hopefully, we're moving in that direction."

Still, the Wizards, who outrebounded Seattle, 19-5, in the fourth quarter, were unable to overcome a clumsy first half.

Said guard Chris Whitney, who had a game-high 22 points, including six three-pointers and eight assists:

"I don't think this team is playing for moral victories. We feel like we're never out of it. We got off to a rough start at the beginning and that got us a bunch of turnovers, but we came back at the end."

Meanwhile, point guard Rod Strickland, who was arrested Sunday morning in Northern Virginia on driving under the influence, missed last night's game with the club's permission.

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