Wizards try hard, but 76ers escape by 4

Washington cuts deficit from 20 to 2 but loses

Pro Basketball

January 13, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Stop if you've read this before, but the Washington Wizards made yet another try to bag a big target with a desperate fourth-quarter comeback, only to miss the mark.

This time, the Wizards went after the biggest game of all, the Philadelphia 76ers, the team with the NBA's best record, and nearly pulled it off, shaving a 20-point, second-half deficit down to two in the closing moments.

In the end, though, the Sixers wriggled away unscathed with an 86-82 win before a sellout crowd of 20,674 at MCI Center.

For a third time this week, Washington coach Leonard Hamilton was left to wonder why his Wizards (7-31) seem so unable to put together four full quarters of play.

"Obviously, it's beginning to sound more and more like the same old song, and it's somewhat discouraging, because it seems like we save our best for the emergency," said Hamilton.

"As hard as we have played toward the end of the game," he continued, "you'd like to think that at some point in time you come away with the fruit of your labors. I'm encouraged by the fact that we're giving those types of efforts, but in order for us to feel good about ourselves, we have to come away with some victories.

"The fact that we're playing hard and making the game interesting, I'm sure people enjoy seeing us give the effort, but it's just not enough."

Indeed, the Wizards, who trailed 84-82 with 49.4 seconds to go after Richard Hamilton hit two free throws, had a chance to pull off the NBA's biggest upset of the year, but Tyrone Nesby missed an ill-advised three-pointer with 20 seconds to go and nine seconds on the shot clock. From there, Washington was forced to foul Philadelphia's Tyrone Hill, who made one of two foul shots with 18.6 seconds remaining.

Without a timeout, the Wizards rushed up the floor, getting the ball to point guard Chris Whitney, who was double-teamed by Hill and Allen Iverson, setting up to shoot a game-tying three.

Hill came away with the ball on a steal, but Whitney maintained after the game that he had been fouled, one of a number of questionable calls in a game in which Washington didn't get to the free-throw line at all in the first half and took 14 fewer foul shots than the Sixers (26-9).

"When the game was on the line, they showed why they're one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. We couldn't get to the foul line," said Leonard Hamilton. "They're an excellent defensive team. They can play great defense and not foul."

Iverson, who led all scorers with 29 points and scored all of Philadelphia's field goals in the final 10 minutes, hit one of two foul shots to ice the game.

As much as phantom foul calls hurt Washington, the chief instrument of their destruction was a disastrous stretch of the third quarter, during which their offense went south, and the Sixers, who led by only five at the half, broke off a 27-12 run to take a 20-point lead with 1:09 to go in the quarter.

Said Richard Hamilton, who had a team-high 22 points: "We can't put too much pressure in the fourth quarter and expect to win the basketball game."

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