Wizards work OT, beat Sixers

Thomas seeking his niche in crowded frontcourt

Pro Basketball

October 15, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - No Washington Wizard finished the 2001-02 season stronger and with more promise than power forward Etan Thomas, who dazzled in the team's last 10 games.

This preseason, then, was the time for Thomas to cement his place in the Wizards' plans. But in the wake of last night's 102-97 overtime win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Thomas could find himself on the outside looking in.

"I definitely want to carry it over. ... All I can do is do my best. Whatever my best is, I can be happy with it," said Thomas, who had eight points and six rebounds in 25 minutes last night.

Thomas, who averaged 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds for the full 2002 season, seemed the odds-on favorite to crack Washington's regulars. But a few things have set back the 6-foot-10 Thomas.

First, the improved play of second-year forward Kwame Brown (22 points, 14 rebounds) served notice that Thomas, who missed training camp and last Thursday's exhibition opener with a hamstring strain, won't get the position without a challenge.

In addition, Washington drafted Jared Jeffries, a 6-10 combination forward, to provide even more depth. The Wizards, who already have veteran Christian Laettner, signed 17-year veteran Charles Oakley last week. With centers Brendan Haywood and the injured Jahidi White also in the mix, the Washington interior seems crowded.

"We have different options and different people bring different things to the table," Thomas said. "We can all be complementary of each other and I think that's the great thing of having so many options."

The Wizards rested most of their veterans last night.

Newly acquired guard Larry Hughes scored 17 points in the first half, and Juan Dixon connected for eight of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, staking the Wizards to a nine-point lead on a pair of three-pointers and a drive in a 1:30 span.

With Philadelphia star Allen Iverson sitting out the fourth quarter, Washington squandered the lead, as Eric Snow hit a three-pointer over an outstretched Jeffries with 1.4 seconds left to tie it at 91.

"I hated that the game went into overtime, but it was the best thing that could have happened," Washington coach Doug Collins said. "With 20 seconds to go, guys were coming over and I think they felt the game was over. I said, `Guys, there's a long time left in this game and we've got to keep our focus.' "

Dixon, who scored all 19 points in the second half and overtime, atoned for a mistake at the end of regulation, when he failed to call a timeout after Snow's basket, with two foul shots with 00.3 left to ice it.

"I'm strong mentally. I made a mistake and I just move on," Dixon said.

Washington 24 17 24 26 11 - 102

Philadelphia 18 22 23 28 6 - 97

WASHINGTON-Russell 1-2 0-0 2, Jeffries 4-11 3-6 11, K.Brown 8-15 6-13 22, Dixon 7-16 2-2 19, Hughes 6-13 4-5 17, Thomas 3-9 2-4 8, Simmons 0-4 0-0 0, Haywood 2-5 1-2 5, Lue 6-12 2-2 16, Whitney 0-2 0-1 0, Cardinal 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 38-90 20-25 102.

PHILADELPHIA - McKie 2-8 0-0 4, Skinner 1-4 0-0 2, MacCulloch 4-5 1-1 9, Snow 3-10 4-4 11, Iverson 6-15 8-10 21, Salmons 7-16 3-4 17, Dalembert 5-11 5-8 15, D.Brown 7-11 0-0 14, Rentzias 0-5 2-2 2, Rollerson 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 36-87 23-29 97.

3-point goals-Wash. 6-12 (Dixon 3-4, Lue 2-5, Hughes 1-1, Russell 0-1, Jeffries 0-1), Phil. 2-13 (Iverson 1-3, Snow 1-2, McKie 0-1, Dalembert 0-1, D.Brown 0-1, Rentzias 0-1, Salmons 0-4). Fouled out-Rollerson. Rebounds-Wash. 63 (K.Brown 14), Phil. 61 (Salmons 8). Assists-Wash. 23 (Lue, Jeffries 5), Phil. 22 (Snow 9). Total fouls-Wash. 24, Phil. 27. Technicals-Iverson. A-18,820.

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