Blazers keep Wizards down

Washington fades, 95-80, for 15th loss in 19 games

March 17, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

PORTLAND, Ore. - For a while last night, it looked as though the Washington Wizards had continued to staunch the bleeding from a couple of weeks of losing close games, as they led the streaking Portland Trail Blazers nearly midway through the third period.

And then the Trail Blazers sliced the Wizards open on both ends of the floor with a 25-6 outburst that closed the third quarter and cruised to a 95-80 win over Washington, the Wizards' 15th loss in their past 19 games.

"Physically, they knocked us off the ball and they were the aggressors," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "There were many times when we drove the ball in there, and there was a little contact and the ball came loose. That's what you have to be able to do. We talked about when the game gets cranked up, and it's close in the last six or so minutes, you have to play through contact. We have a difficult time doing that."

Three Blazers - Rasheed Wallace (25 points), Shawn Kemp (a season-high 21 points and 14 rebounds) and Bonzi Wells (22 points) - scored more than 20 points for Portland (40-25), which won its ninth straight at the Rose Garden and 15th in 16 games.

Meanwhile, the Wizards (30-36), who the night before had ended their own five-game losing streak, looked befuddled, as they committed 23 turnovers.

Things got so bad that Collins jokingly waved a white towel of surrender at his former Philadelphia teammate, Portland coach Maurice Cheeks, in the game's final minute when Cheeks left his starters in leading by 13.

"They're rangy, they're quick, they're athletic, they're multi-dimensional, they can shot-block," said Collins. "And Scottie Pippen [who had a career-high tying 15 assists] leads the way, with his championship experience in Chicago.

"Really good teams only have to play inferior teams hard for 12 minutes. And that's what sort of happened [last night]. They played along with us, and then they cranked it up in that spurt right there in the third period. And championship teams can do that. You see the Lakers do it now, the Bulls used to do it. And they put you on their heels."

The Trail Blazers turned up the defensive intensity on one particularly dazzling sequence in the third quarter, capping a 10-0 run that gave them their first lead since early in the second period.

After Wells sank two free throws to tie the score at 56, Pippen picked Richard Hamilton clean off the inbounds play and fed the pass to Wells, who laid it in at the 7:02 mark.

After Courtney Alexander threw away a pass on the succeeding inbounds play, Derek Anderson hit a 13-footer with 6:45 left to give Portland a 60-56 advantage. The Trail Blazers completed the sequence by forcing an eight-second half-court violation on the Wizards, followed by a Wells dunk, pushing Portland's lead to six.

From there, the Trail Blazers kicked it into another gear, holding Washington to 11 points, which tied a season low for the Wizards for a quarter.

"We knew they'd come out and tried to step up the defense and they did, and part of it is what they did, but we have to be more patient," said guard Chris Whitney, who led the Wizards with 15 points. "If we execute and try to get through our plays and make them execute, hopefully we'll make them play defense for 24 seconds rather than 10 or 12. That was the turning point of the game, though."

Said Alexander: "We didn't come out with the same focus that we did in the first half. One turnover kind of led to another, and it was just a snowball effect after that. It just got worse and worse."

Backup point guard Tyronn Lue, who hobbled through the second half of the game, will be listed as questionable for tomorrow night's game at Golden State because of a right hip pointer.

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