Stackhouse blocks another late fold by Wizards, 98-93

Guard rejects Suns' dunk after lead vanishes, scores 33 to shoot down Phoenix

January 28, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The table was set for another Washington Wizards late-game collapse last night at MCI Center, and the Phoenix Suns sat themselves down for a heaping helping, erasing a 15-point second-half deficit to tie in the final minute.

For a change, however, the Wizards, and Jerry Stackhouse, in particular, cut off the serving line, ending a three-game losing streak by beating Phoenix, 98-93.

As is becoming the all-too-familiar custom, the Wizards surrendered a big fourth-quarter lead.

But Stackhouse, who scored 10 of Washington's last 15 points and six points in the final 40 seconds, contributed what might be the biggest defensive play of the season, stoning his former Philadelphia teammate, Scott Williams, on a dunk attempt that would have tied the score 93-93 with 35 seconds left.

"I thought I had gotten [Amare] Stoudemire before that and they called a foul on me," said Stackhouse, who had a game-high 33 points and nine assists. "I had to go over and remind [referee] Ronnie [Nunn] that I led guards in blocks a couple of years ago. Maybe that helped me on that one."

Williams, who at 6 feet 10 and 260 pounds is 4 inches taller and 42 pounds heavier than Stackhouse, came barreling into the lane for the slam before the Washington shooting guard rose and swatted it away. Wizards forward Bryon Russell collected the loose ball and handed it to Stackhouse, who was fouled and made two free throws.

"I don't think they expected that. Stack doesn't wear 42 for nothing," Russell said. "I think that's his vertical jump. That was a huge block and I was there to pick it up and I put the ball right into his hands, because he's our best free-throw shooter."

Said Washington coach Doug Collins: "That was incredible. That's the kind of play that builds confidence. If Stack goes up and makes that play and we win the game, that's one of those plays that you look back on later and say, `You know what? That could have a dramatic effect on your team as you're moving forward.' "

The Wizards (22-23), frankly, needed something unbelievable to happen. They committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter against the Suns (26-20), playing poorly down the stretch for a second straight night, following Saturday's loss to Minnesota, where they dropped a 15-point second-half lead.

"I could just sense in our team because we had just lost the Minnesota game ... them losing their confidence," Collins said. "We had balls slip out of our hands, we missed layups, we had shot clock violations and turnovers. I just told our guys, you've got to play to win, you can't play not to lose."

Said guard Larry Hughes: "We just have to stay calm and try to make the best play possible. We can't worry about all that extra stuff that's going on from the last game. We have to make plays right then and there to pull out wins."

And that's where Stackhouse came in. In his sixth straight 20-point plus performance, Stackhouse took control, hitting eight straight free throws in the fourth period, for 12 points overall in the quarter.

"We're at a point right now where everybody should be looking in the mirror and saying there's got to be more that I can be doing," Stackhouse said. "And I feel the same way. I wanted to come out and make a statement. Since I've been back [from a groin pull], we've lost three games. That was discouraging to me and I wanted to get back on the winning track."

Michael Jordan had 19 points for Washington, and Christian Laettner had 12 points and eight rebounds. Stephon Marbury scored 29 for Phoenix, as the Suns, who missed 12 of 24 free throws last night, finished a five-game Eastern swing, having dropped four on the trip.

Next for Wizards

Opponent:New Jersey Nets

Site:Continental Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.

When:Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)

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