Wizards persevere, hold off Hawks, 97-90

Backups, late 8-2 run pace 4th win in past 5

February 02, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Thursday's Washington Wizards win over Cleveland had thrills, chills and buzzer-beating excitement. Last night's Wizards tussle with the Atlanta Hawks had none of that.

Instead, Washington's 97-90 win over the Hawks had the appearance of a clearly superior team playing down to the level of its opponent.

Washington (23-21), which entered the fourth quarter leading by 11, should have put the hammer down on the hapless Hawks (14-32), losers of six straight and 12 of their past 13.

"It was big to get this win," said forward Popeye Jones, who had 10 rebounds. "We talked about it before the game. If we didn't get this win, it would negate what we did [Thursday night] and that emotional win. We just knew that we had to come out and match their energy. We thought if they had more energy than us, and got more loose balls, they would come out on top."

The Hawks hit four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, and drew to within one of the Wizards twice in the period, the last time when Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who had 25 points, hit a running hook across the lane with 2:08 remaining, making the score 89-88.

But the Wizards held on, outscoring Atlanta 8-2 in the final two minutes, as Tyrone Nesby sank two free throws with 1:46 to play, then after a defensive stop, Chris Whitney hit an 18-footer with 1:10 to go to put the game out of reach.

"That was definitely a gut-it-out win for us," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "Our guys were so tired, and I knew it at halftime, and I was just hoping we could will ourselves through this game. Michael [Jordan] made a great point on the bench. He told our guys, `Winning's hard. Losing's easy. So we're going to win.' Just hearing him say that, our guys were going to do whatever it took to win."

Jordan's 28 points paced Washington, but on a night when starting center Jahidi White was out of action, serving a one-game suspension, and with forward Christian Laettner still on the injured list with a right thigh contusion, the Wizards got major contributions from their reserve big men.

Nesby, for instance, poured in 12 points off the bench, while rookie Etan Thomas had a career-high nine points and 10 rebounds in a career-high 24 minutes.

"It was a matter of me being ready for the time when Coach called on me," Thomas said. "It's a situation where I'm not playing a lot, but Coach has done a good job of staying on us hard. Sometimes, he is hard on the younger guys, but he just wants us to be prepared for when he does call on us, and to be ready.

"[Last night], that's what I tried to do. Jahidi was out and he plays an important position for us, and that's a position I can play, and that's what I tried to do."

Said Collins: "I told Etan, `You may think you're buried on the bench, but you're only a sprained ankle or the flu away from 30 minutes [of playing time].' "

Courtney Alexander, getting his second consecutive start while Hubert Davis battles the flu, had 14 points and a season-high five assists for the Wizards, who have won four of their past five.

The Wizards allowed the Hawks to shoot 49 percent from the floor, but harassed them into 18 turnovers, which they converted into 27 points. Meanwhile, Washington committed a season-low five miscues.

"I think we are learning, and we still have a long ways to go in terms of growth, but we are obviously moving in the right direction," Jordan said. "We expect to compete every single night and when you do that you are going to win your share of games, and when you least expect it, you are going to lose those games. This team is starting to understand that. I think as long as we continue to execute, we will get better."

White was suspended for his head-butt of Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas with 7:17 left of Thursday's 93-92 win. The infraction cost White a $7,500 fine and the loss of a game's pay, approximately $48,000. Ilgauskas was fined $5,000. In addition, Cleveland rookie center DeSagana Diop was fined $5,000 and suspended for a game for leaving the bench to join the fracas.

NOTE: The win completed a three-game sweep of Atlanta, the first time in franchise history the Wizards or Bullets have swept the Hawks in a season.

FG FT Reb

ATLANTA Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

Abdur-Rahim 45 11-21 3-5 3-8 4 2 25

Strickland 18 0-1 0-0 0-2 1 2 0

Mohammed 37 7-9 1-2 4-13 2 4 15

Glover 11 1-3 0-0 0-1 2 0 2

Terry 37 7-15 0-0 0-2 1 0 17

Newble 21 2-7 1-2 2-3 0 1 5

Johnson 30 4-10 1-2 2-7 0 3 11

Mottola 14 0-2 3-4 1-2 0 1 3

Vaughn 27 4-5 2-2 0-5 5 5 12

Totals 240 36-73 11-17 12-43 15 18 90

Percentages: FG .493, FT .647. 3-point goals: 7-18, .389 (Terry 3-8, Vaughn 2-3, Johnson 2-6, Newble 0-1). Team rebounds: 5. Blocked shots: 6 (Johnson 4, Terry, Strickland). Turnovers: 18 (Vaughn 5, Abdur-Rahim 4, Terry 3, Mottola 2, Mohammed, Johnson, Strickland, Newble). Steals: 4 (Glover, Terry, Johnson, Strickland). Technical fouls: None.

WASHINGTON Min M-A M-A O-T A PF PTS

Jordan 38 10-24 8-10 0-4 8 2 28

Jones 26 3-10 2-2 6-10 1 2 8

Haywood 24 2-2 1-2 3-4 0 1 5

Alexander 34 7-10 0-0 0-4 5 1 14

Whitney 29 3-11 0-0 0-1 1 0 7

Nesby 22 4-4 4-4 1-4 1 4 12

RHamilton 24 3-12 4-4 1-1 1 0 10

Lue 19 2-4 0-0 0-2 4 1 4

Thomas 24 3-5 3-6 2-10 0 3 9

Totals 240 37-82 22-28 13-40 21 14 97

Percentages: FG .451, FT .786. 3-point goals: 1-8, .125 (Whitney 1-5, Lue 0-1, Alexander 0-1, Jordan 0-1). Team rebounds: 6. Blocked shots: 7 (Haywood 3, Thomas 2, Jordan 2). Turnovers: 5 (R.Hamilton, Alexander, Nesby, Haywood, Jordan). Steals: 13 (R.Hamilton 2, Thomas 2, Nesby 2, Jordan 2, Whitney, Lue, Alexander, Jones, Haywood). Technical fouls: None.

Atlanta 20 24 21 25 - 90

Washington 29 25 22 21 - 97

A-20,674 (20,674). T-2:06. Officials-Joe Forte, Monte McCutchen, Jason Phillips.

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Indiana Pacers

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, noon

TV/Radio: Chs. 11, 4/WTEM (980 AM)

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