Giving too little, too late costs Wizards

14-point deficit trimmed to two, but 76ers prevail on late free throws, 88-80

Pro Basketball

January 19, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - By the time things wrapped up last night, the Washington Wizards looked like they had done time in a M*A*S*H ward, with bloodied noses, bent fingers and the flu running about.

And the Wizards played like they felt, sluggish and out of sorts, the worst conditions to face a high-energy team like the Philadelphia 76ers, who turned back Washington, 88-80, before a sellout crowd at MCI Center.

The Wizards, after an inspiring performance Thursday against Orlando, looked flat for 3 1/2 quarters before turning it on in the fourth, narrowing a 14-point deficit to two with 1:26 to go but falling short.

"We couldn't sustain anything," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "It was just one of those nights, and our guys fought and it was still a two-point game. I was really appreciative of how hard they tried. It was just one of those games where we just couldn't get anything together. We were sloshing around out there."

The Wizards (20-20) ultimately collapsed under the weight of 19 turnovers, which Philadelphia converted into 28 points. Washington, however, could turn the 76ers' 16 miscues into only seven points.

"I didn't know it was that many, but it was a lot," said Wizards forward Kwame Brown. "We'd come down on the break and lose the handle on the ball. I think it was because some of our guys are beat up, and Larry [Hughes] got sick. He tried to do the best that he could."

The Wizards are already operating without guard Jerry Stackhouse, who was out for a third straight game (strained groin). Washington played most of the second half without point guard Hughes, who left because of the flu.

Also, Brown missed some of the third quarter with a bent pinky on his right hand, as well as a key part of the fourth because his nose was bloodied.

Michael Jordan had 25 points to lead Washington, including seven in the Wizards' desperate 12-2 run that sliced a 12-point deficit to two. However, Jordan missed a critical free throw with 2:20 left, and was called for two fouls on Aaron McKie in the final 1:11. McKie sank all four free throws to ice the matchup of two teams that started the day tied in the Atlantic Division. The 76ers have won all three meetings this season - a key stat if they finish tied.

"When you think about this team and focus on our turnovers and take that out of the game, we beat this team three straight times," said Jordan. "We fought back, we got a great effort down the stretch to get ourselves back in the game, but we just couldn't get over the hump."

Juan Dixon (Maryland) scored a career-high 19 points.

"I have to learn how to stay out of foul trouble," said Dixon, who played most of the third and fourth quarters with four fouls. "I get myself into situations where I reach. I just tried to provide energy in that second quarter. We were struggling scoring-wise, and I just wanted to be aggressive on both ends of the floor and try to make something happen."

Allen Iverson led all scorers with 26 points, while Eric Snow scored 19. Keith Van Horn chipped in 17 points and 11 rebounds for Philadelphia (21-19), which won for only the second time in nine games.

The 6-foot-3 Snow especially hurt the Wizards with 13 points in the second half, many on shots over the smaller Dixon and Tyronn Lue.

"He did it to me all night," said Lue. "I was able to play good defense on Iverson, but as soon as I got a chance to play on Snow, he would drive or put his body on me ... I wasn't able to recover and contest the shots."

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