Believe it: Hot Wizards capture 5th win in row

Howard's 24 helps turn back Cavs, 95-89

Pro Basketball

January 30, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - When you've dug the kind of crater the Washington Wizards have for themselves during the first half of the season, there's no time or even reason for the luxury of what could have been.

Instead, the Wizards are concentrating on the here and now, which includes last night's 95-89 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team's fifth straight victory.

The win came in the kind of game the Wizards (12-34) have made a habit of blowing this season.

In this case, however, the Wizards combined an impressive early offense, as they shot 52 percent during the first three quarters, with tough defense down the stretch, to add to the longest winning streak the team has sustained since a six-game spurt shortly after the MCI Center opened in December 1997.

"We need to keep a perspective on where we are and not be satisfied with just getting better, but have a mind-set that we want to be the very best that we can become. That will keep us humble and motivated," said coach Leonard Hamilton.

Forward Juwan Howard, in a late push to be named as a reserve to the Eastern Conference squad for next month's All-Star Game to be played here, had a game-high 24 points, with Richard Hamilton adding 14 and Mitch Richmond chipping in 12 off the bench.

"Sometimes when you're losing, your spirit is down, your morale, your head is down," said Howard. "It feels better to just come out here and crack some jokes and have some fun."

In particular, last night's win, where the Wizards led by as many as 21, only to see the Cavaliers (20-22) get to within five in the final minute, called to mind the horrific loss to the Los Angeles Clippers here in early December, in which the Wizards built a 21-point second-half lead only to lose by five.

"That [the Clippers game] was an ugly game. That was one where everyone felt bad about the outcome. It was tough, but we put that behind us, and we don't ever want that to happen again," Richmond said. "It's a long season and, hopefully, we'll have more ups than downs. At that point in time, we had a lot of downs, and it's good to see that all the hard work that we put in is giving us some victories."

The hard work came mainly on the defensive end, as Jahidi White, the 6-foot-9 center who had started for most of the season before injuring his left knee last month, blocked shots on three successive possessions.

White, who had difficulty early in the season staying out of foul trouble, has seen his minutes reduced with Calvin Booth moving into the starting lineup. But White garners most of the minutes, especially in the fourth quarter, when his size and strength are at a premium.

"I've been trying to stay out of [foul] trouble and he [Leonard Hamilton] is doing a great job of keeping me out of foul trouble with the rotation that he's brought in," said White, who finished with eight rebounds to go along with four blocks.

"Obviously, Jahidi has been available a lot more in the fourth quarter lately than he was early in the season. He's done a great job of staying out of foul trouble," Leonard Hamilton said. "That's just him concentrating more and making sure he makes good decisions on the defensive end. Those blocks were huge down the stretch."

The lead fluctuated from 12 to 20 and back before the Wizards hit a dry spell midway through the fourth. Andre Miller's layup with 4:29 remaining cut the lead to 10 before Whitney hit a transition jumper with 2:14 to go, and the Wizards weren't threatened again.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.