Makeshift Raptors defy logic, defeat Wizards by 84-75

With 3 newcomers among only 8 in uniform, Toronto outhustles lethargic hosts

January 15, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Toronto Raptors set a nice little trap last night at MCI Center, and the Washington Wizards fell right in.

The Raptors, who had dropped 12 of their previous 13 games, came into town with eight players, the NBA minimum requirement for a game. Of those eight, three non-starters were signed to 10-day contracts. And to compound matters, the Wizards scored the game's first 10 points.

In other words, the triple whammy was on Washington and the Wizards succumbed, 84-75, in perhaps the worst loss of the season, given the circumstances.

"We had no energy," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "We got off to a great start - maybe it was too easy to start - and then we just went flat. I just kept trying different combinations, different people, and we just were flat. I just couldn't get the guys to understand the sense of urgency. I just couldn't get it across.

"I don't want to disrespect Toronto, but this has got to be more important to us than it is to them. I mean, [Monday] we were talking about home-court advantage [in the playoffs]."

In fairness, the Wizards (19-19) were without their leading scorer, guard Jerry Stackhouse, who sat out last night with a pulled left groin muscle muscle.

But Washington's play against a team just a rung above the National Basketball Developmental League, where two Raptors played until recently, was inexplicable, to say the least.

"That's where it's unexplainable," said guard Larry Hughes, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. "We started out early running the ball at them and getting easy baskets, but our defense slipped. We let those guys get a lot of looks right in front of the rim and that made their jump shots easier, but we let them get a lot of layups. They ran us right in front of the rim."

In fact, Washington's play was so inexplicable that Michael Jordan, who had a game-high 22 points but shot only 3-for-12 in the second half, strolled briskly out of the Wizards' locker room after the game, saying, "I have no comment at all for you boys."

With seven players staying in Toronto because of injury, including star forward Vince Carter (strained right knee), the Raptors (10-28) were so depleted that they had to get clearance from the league yesterday to add forward Damone Brown from the North Charleston Lowgators of the NBDL.

All Brown and fellow NBDL veteran Rafer Alston, accustomed to touring the South by means of buses, did was score 13 points each and provide energy. Morris Peterson led the Raptors with 21 points.

"We've got a plane ride to enjoy this win," said Alston, who scored on a running jumper with 36.5 seconds to go, then celebrated by waving a hand in front of the Washington bench.

The Wizards' bench was outscored 15-3 in the second half and was out-rebounded after halftime 29-14. And, for a second straight home game, Washington allowed a career high in rebounds to an opponent: Former Georgetown star Jerome Williams pulled down 20 rebounds. Golden State's Troy Murphy had 17 rebounds in Friday's Washington loss.

"Jerome Williams didn't have one play run for him, and yet he hustled his way into 14 points and 20 rebounds," Collins said. "He sprinted the floor every time. The ball went up and he went after it and if he didn't get it, he ran back to the other end of the floor. I looked up and our guys were backing out, not even going for the boards. It's about energy and about will and going and doing it. We just didn't do it."

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Orlando Magic

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio: TNT/WTEM (980 AM)

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