76ers run Wizards off road

Iverson fuels 91-84 win as Philly pulls over Jordan in second half

January 23, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Speed kills in the NBA, just as it does everywhere else in sports, and the Philadelphia 76ers displayed theirs in a dazzling fourth-quarter spurt on the way to a 91-84 win over the foundering Washington Wizards last night at MCI Center.

In particular, the speed of reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Allen Iverson took over in the second half, as he blitzed the Wizards for 22 of his 34 points. Against a procession of Washington guards, he either blew by them or buried tough jumpers with a hand in his face.

That was bad enough, but the Wizards had made provisions for that, especially given Iverson's status as the league's leading scorer, at nearly 30 points a game. What Washington didn't account for was Iverson's running buddies, namely Eric Snow and Aaron McKie, also hurting them.

McKie, last year's best Sixth Man in the league, had 18 off the bench, while Snow had a near triple double, with 19 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

"Their speed really hurt us," Washington coach Doug Collins said of the 76ers. "We were counting on making their other guys try and beat us. We expected Iverson to get his 30-plus, but McKie and Snow combined for 37 points. That was the difference in the game."

The loss was Washington's second straight and the sixth in its past seven games, dropping the Wizards (19-20) behind Philadelphia (20-21) by .001 percentage point, and out of the playoff race into ninth place behind Orlando and the Sixers. The Wizards plummeted under .500 for the first time since a Dec. 16 loss to Toronto dropped them to 11-12.

Meanwhile, for a second straight night, Michael Jordan, who hit just one of 11 shots in the fourth quarter of Monday's 105-101 loss at Minnesota, faded badly in the second half last night, hitting just one of eight shots.

Jordan led Washington with 30 points, but had only two after the break.

"You have to give Philly credit, because I came out in the first half, and I was really in a great rhythm and they came out and sacrificed their defense in the second half and took me really out of the game," Jordan said.

Said Iverson: "We tried to play better defense in the first half, but Michael was just on. When a guy is hitting shots like that, it doesn't really matter what type of defense you put in front of him. In the second half, we zoned up on him, and made other people make shots."

Indeed, the Sixers employed a strategy that is becoming increasingly effective against the undermanned Wizards, who badly miss injured Richard Hamilton. Until his undetermined return, opponents will continue to make someone other than Jordan beat them.

"With the new rule changes, it made it easy for them to wall Michael in, and they kind of zoned us and our spacing was really bad," Wizards forward Popeye Jones said. "For some reason, we couldn't get the ball to the open man. What we have to do is watch the film and come up with a way to stop that, because I'm sure we'll be seeing it again and again."

Iverson scored seven straight points to give the 76ers an 82-66 lead with 7:10 to play. The Wizards responded with a 9-0 run, including Jordan's dunk.

But a three-pointer from McKie, his fourth, with 1:59 remaining, closed a 5-0 run and put the lead back in double digits.

Said Collins: "We had more movement in the first half. But as we get a little tired, we get more complacent and they can build that wall. We know what they're doing. It's not like it's some surprise tactic or anything. It's just they play Michael and they get him pinned on one side of the floor."

The prospects, even with seven of the next eight games at home, don't get better so long as the Wizards, who played without forward Christian Laettner (charley horse), can't find a viable second offensive option to Jordan.

"They're exhausted," Collins said. "We've played undermanned. I'm not giving any excuses, but I'm saying our guys are exhausted. They're physically tired, they're emotionally tired. We haven't had many easy wins this year and the thing we have to do is scratch and claw for everything. That's sort of the way we play."

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)

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