Wolves top winded Wizards

Jordan's 1-for-11 4th falls short, 105-101

January 22, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS - There are some losses that sting for the moment, and there are others that hurt for the longer term and even debilitate.

For the Washington Wizards, last night's 105-101 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves could be of the second variety, a setback that brings on a long-lasting malaise.

The beaten-up Wizards had a chance to steal a critical road win against one of the NBA's rising powers, but crumbled in the fourth quarter when they shot 7-for-26 from the field, looking like a spent team, with a big homestand on the way.

"It doesn't get any easier," Washington coach Doug Collins said. "That's why we've just got to keep battling. It seems like when you're winning, the games don't come fast enough, and when you're losing, they come too soon."

In the Wizards' case, their next game is tonight at MCI Center against the Philadelphia 76ers, the first of a stretch that will see them play at home in eight of their next nine games.

And it appears they'll play at least the first part of that stretch without guard Richard Hamilton, a key second option to Michael Jordan who has missed the past 13 games with a pulled right groin.

Hamilton, who is averaging 19.8 points, said yesterday that he is making some progress in terms of running straight ahead, but still has problems moving laterally. His return date is still undetermined.

Hamilton's absence was acutely felt last night, as the Timberwolves (30-10) threw fresh defensive bodies at Jordan, who had a game-high 29 points and a season-high 14 rebounds before a Minnesota regular-season record crowd of 20,320. However, Jordan, who was guarded late by Kevin Garnett, looked visibly winded in the fourth quarter, where he hit just one of 11 field-goal attempts.

"I was tired in the sense that he [Garnett] was leaning and fighting me the entire time," Jordan said. "At that time, you have to find other guys to set good screens and get some other shots. We had some good looks, and guys didn't make the big shots. I missed some easy shots, too. I had like four layups that I felt I should have made."

Said Collins: "Michael, in both first halves that he played against them, he had big first halves. I think they just wore him down. In the game at the MCI Center, and the game here, they just kept making him work so hard. They'd take Garnett off him and they'd have Wally [Szczerbiak] on him or [Anthony] Peeler. They just kept running fresh bodies on him, and make him work so hard."

Garnett, a Most Valuable Player candidate, not only hurt Washington (19-19) with his defense on Jordan, but chipped in 23 points, six rebounds and nine assists.

"I think he is, by far, the hardest power forward in the league to guard," said Popeye Jones, who fouled out. "His jump shot is getting a lot better than it used to be. You try to force him to take a lot of jump shots, and at the same time he gets his teammates involved. He's just a complete player."

Washington guard Chris Whitney had 16 points and his backup, Tyronn Lue, chipped in with 12 off the bench. But the pair shot a combined 1-for-7 in the final quarter as Minnesota extended a four-point lead out to 10 with 4:13 to go.

The Wizards, who have lost all 11 games this year when a team has scored 100 or more points against them, were never able to mount a serious comeback the rest of the way in dropping their fifth in the past six games.

"We knew they were going to get on a streak and we knew we had to get a bigger lead than we did, because they're a spurty team," center Jahidi White said of the game in which neither team led by more than five until the fourth quarter. "So you have to have a cushion for their spurt. It just so happened that we just stayed in the game and battled back and forth for points. When the spurt came, we didn't have retaliation for it. It was too late."

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