Missed free throws cost Wizards, 97-91

Poor defense also hurts as Hornets drop them 3 1/2 games behind last spot

Pro Basketball

April 06, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Doug Collins reached his breaking point with the Washington Wizards, becoming so frustrated with their passive play, particularly on the defensive end, that he cleared the bench for the fourth quarter of last night's game with the Charlotte Hornets.

And the gambit almost paid off, as the Wizards nearly erased a 19-point lead before a largely indifferent Charlotte Coliseum crowd of 15,621.

Ultimately, Washington could not make up for three periods of mistakes and shoddy free-throw shooting and lost, 97-91.

Trailing by 17 to start the period, Collins benched his starters in the fourth, going with a young lineup of Bobby Simmons, Kwame Brown, Brendan Haywood, Tyronn Lue and Tyrone Nesby, and the bench crew sliced the Charlotte lead to seven in the closing moments.

The Wizards' missing 17 free throws overall and allowing the Hornets (40-35) to shoot 61 percent in the second period combined to doom Washington (34-42). The loss guaranteed the Wizards of another losing season and further crippled their already flagging playoff hopes.

"I was very pleased in the fourth quarter," Collins said. "I thought our guys played tough. It was the first 12 minutes of tough basketball we've played in four games, to where we stood up, we tried to guard, we rebounded. The one thing I've tried to do all yearlong is reward the guys that are playing well. They were playing the way I wanted our team to play."

The loss dropped Washington, losers of four straight, 3 1/2 games behind the Indiana Pacers for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with six games to play.

"I don't think there's a person in here that doesn't want to make the playoffs. Indiana keeps giving us chances and we're not capitalizing on them and there's no one to blame but ourselves," said center Haywood, who had seven points.

The Wizards got the Hornets' advantage down to seven on Haywood's layup with 3:32 left, the first time they had been within 10 since early in the second quarter.

The teams traded baskets, with Jamal Mashburn, who had a game-high 27 points, hitting a 17-footer on the right side with 3:08 remaining, followed by Kwame Brown's 18-footer with 2:24 to go. On the ensuing possession, Mashburn was called for an offensive foul with 2:03 left, but Brown missed a jumper in the lane with 1:45 left.

From there, the Hornets, who moved into sole possession of fifth place in the East, held on, making four of six free throws down the stretch.

"We have to learn not to put ourselves in situations where we're digging out of holes the whole game," said Richard Hamilton, who led the Wizards with 22 points. "We've got to stop putting ourselves in situations where in the second half, we make a hard push to come back and we get it down to eight or 10, but then they make their run and they push it back to 18 or 20. We have to learn to play the same way the whole game."

The Wizards' comeback was impeded somewhat by a malfunctioning scoreboard.

"I wasn't sure what the score was," said Collins. "I kept looking up at the scoreboard and it was seven and I didn't know. I kept asking the coaches. I was confused, because I was trying to save a couple of timeouts in case we needed them. We were down five and then I look up and they changed it to seven."

Wizards tonight

Opponent: Memphis Grizzlies

Site: MCI Center, Washington

Time: 8

TV/Radio: CN8/WTEM (980 AM)

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