Wizards earn fifth straight victory, 101-98

Laettner gets 18 points, 11 rebounds to beat Bulls

January 09, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards' coaching staff and players spend a lot of time trying to persuade Christian Laettner to shoot, which should come as a surprise to anyone who lost sight of the former Duke star's career after he led the Blue Devils to two national titles in the early 1990s.

But Laettner showed no hesitation in pulling the trigger last night, hitting three big jumpers in the fourth quarter to help the Wizards pull out a 101-98 win over the Chicago Bulls before 20,172 at MCI Center.

It was Washington's fifth straight win and sixth in its past seven games.

Laettner notched season highs with 18 points and 11 rebounds, scoring three times when the Bulls pulled within one in the fourth quarter. He also hit two free throws with five seconds left that iced the game.

"My teammates and coaches are always barking for me to shoot the ball," Laettner said.

"I tell them I'll shoot it when I feel like I'm open. In the fourth quarter, people are going to collapse on [Jerry] Stackhouse and [Michael] Jordan even more, and if I step away from the bucket and shoot my 18-footer, I'm wide-open. There's no reason not for me to shoot [last night]. I was feeling good out there and Stack made some great passes, and so did Mike, so you've got to knock them down."

On a night when Stackhouse was 2-for-14 from the floor for 10 points and Jordan shot 5-for-13 for 14 points, Laettner and Larry Hughes, who led all Washington scorers with 22 points, provided the reliable offensive alternatives. Jordan's performance may have been hindered by a stomach virus that sent him home early from the morning shoot-around.

"It was sort of nice at the end that Jerry didn't score the baskets, Michael didn't score the baskets," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "It was Christian and Larry. That's when you have a good team, when you have guys out on the floor where if you're going to run off them and play other people, they are not afraid to take those shots."

The Wizards (18-17), who drilled the Bulls by 25 last Thursday in Chicago, were on the verge of getting rolled in their own building, especially in the second period, as the Bulls (13-22) shot 54 percent in the quarter, outscoring Washington, 32-22.

Jalen Rose, Donyell Marshall and Jamal Crawford each had seven points in the second quarter, as Chicago tallied more assists in the second (seven) than the Wizards did for the entire first half (six). Washington went without a field goal in the final 5:17 of the second quarter.

The Bulls' 59 points in the half, good for an 11-point lead at the break, were a season high against Washington in any first half this year.

"In the first half, we didn't play any defense," Hughes said. "What we do is going to depend on defense. We scored [with] the ball, but we didn't get any stops and you can't win that way."

In the third, the Wizards outscored Chicago 36-14 to take an 11-point lead into the fourth, where the Bulls made a solid run, threatening to take the lead, but never able to get over the hump. Rose, who had nine points in the first half, had just one free throw, with 16 seconds left, in the second half.

"Me and Jalen were pretty much a stalemate," said Jordan, who had 10 of his points in the third quarter. "Maybe he was sick, too."

NOTES: Collins said rookie guard Juan Dixon, who has been on the injured list since Dec. 2 with a sprained left elbow, may return to the roster as early as Monday. Collins said he wanted to see Dixon participate in at least two full contact practices before he was activated. ... Dixon's former Maryland teammate, Lonny Baxter, got into the game late in the first half, and was welcomed warmly by the MCI Center crowd.

Next for Wizards, Opponent:Golden State Warriors

Site:MCI Center, Washington

When:Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WTNT (570 AM)

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