Nets drop Wizards another notch, 93-82

On `empty,' hosts lose 5th in 6 games since break

Pro Basketball

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

WASHINGTON - Doug Collins has taken the emotional and physical temperature of his Washington Wizards and found them ailing.

Some of their predicament is no doubt due to a murderous stretch of schedule out of the All-Star break, which included last night's 93-82 loss to the New Jersey Nets at MCI Center.

After all, the Wizards, who have dropped five of six since the break, have faced the Pacific Division-leading Sacramento Kings, the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and the Central Division-leading Detroit Pistons on the road, as well as taking on the Eastern Conference-leading Nets last night.

But beyond the level of competition, Collins is seeing a malaise of sorts, and with a playoff berth possible, he needs to find a cure, and soon.

"Our guys right now, emotionally and physically, are on empty," Collins said. "This was my biggest concern coming off the All-Star break with our schedule. My biggest concern right now is we've got to get revitalized. We're playing a step slow, trying to do too much on our own, and we can't play that way."

Michael Jordan, who missed Wednesday's loss in Detroit with knee tendinitis, had a team-high 16 points in his return but also has seen the warning signs.

"This whole second half is going to be a gut check," Jordan said. "Every team is trying to get better and every team is trying to make the playoffs and every game seems like a playoff. This is not going to be any different. We have to reach deep inside ourselves, and we have to stay connected."

The Nets (36-17) did a lot to make Washington (27-26) look so exhausted last night, outscoring the Wizards 27-0 on the fast break and seemingly converting on every one of their 15 turnovers.

"When they're making transition baskets like they did, it makes the half-court offense that much easier for them to execute, because they were getting easy shots. We didn't get enough fast-break opportunities," said guard Richard Hamilton, who had 15 points, shooting 5-for-13.

New Jersey's Jason Kidd, the consensus favorite for NBA Most Valuable Player, especially stung the Wizards, going for 30 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

Twice, the Wizards cut the New Jersey lead to one only to have Kidd slow their roll, first with a personal 8-0 run late in the second quarter.

But Kidd saved his best for later. A pair of Christian Laettner free throws trimmed a Nets lead to 64-63, but after Lusicious Harris hit a 17-footer, Kidd tossed in a three-pointer from 40 feet to beat the third-quarter buzzer, going on to score 10 of New Jersey's first 15 points of the fourth quarter.

"That segment right at the end of the third quarter just killed us," Collins said. " ... We go from one to six. More importantly, it's a deflating sort of play."

Collins said he would give the Wizards today off before they meet the Miami Heat in a home-and-home series that opens tomorrow night in Washington. From all accounts, they could use the time off.

"If we don't turn it around quick, we're going to go home early," said center Jahidi White. "I don't want that, and I'm thinking the rest of the team doesn't want that, either. The same way we were playing when we started this winning thing, we have to continue that way. We've kind of changed our game around, and that's not how it should happen."

"I'm not sure what it is, but whatever it is, it's not what we had. We don't have what we had before the All-Star break, and we have to go in and dig individually deep within ourselves and regroup as players and as a team."

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