Wizards get cut down by Nets, 86-78

Interior defense falters

11-point 1st-half lead blown

Pro Basketball

January 30, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - There was a time when you could choke off the New Jersey Nets for about three quarters and coast to a victory, but that time has passed, as the Washington Wizards discovered last night at Continental Airlines Arena.

The Wizards followed their game plan - keep the mistakes to a minimum and keep the Nets from running - to near perfection for most of three quarters, rolling to an 11-point, second-quarter lead.

But Washington left just enough of an opening, especially in the third quarter, and the Nets barreled through en route to an 86-78 victory.

The Wizards (22-24) slowed the run-happy Nets to a crawl in the first half and a chunk of the third quarter, as New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd missed most of the second half with a strained right groin and shooting guard Kerry Kittles missed the game for personal reasons.

"We were doing exactly what we wanted to do out there," Washington coach Doug Collins said. "Look at the first half. They had no fast-break points. They had two points off turnovers, and the tempo of the game was good. We got to the free-throw line 12 times. We were attacking."

But then came the third period, in which the Nets (31-14) closed the quarter on a 17-6 run that gave them a six-point lead.

"They just took it to us," said Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse, who had a game-high 27 points. "They outhustled us to loose balls, contesting our shots and made us work for stuff. We didn't. That was the difference in the game.

"We played pretty good for the most part, but that team is looking for a spurt. They normally hit it earlier, but they hit that spurt in the third quarter. We missed so many opportunities to extend our lead."

The Wizards particularly shrunk from the battle inside, as New Jersey outscored them 42-26 in the paint. New Jersey forward Kenyon Martin pulled down a career-high 21 rebounds - 11 in the second half - to go along with 19 points.

"Kenyon Martin came out in the second half, and it was a man against boys," said Michael Jordan, who had eight points on 4-for-16 shooting in his final game at the Meadowlands.

"They started beating us up inside and eating us up on the boards, and we tried to retaliate with jump shots. That isn't going to do it. We have to establish an inside game. We have to get guys in foul trouble and get to the line ourselves."

Collins lamented that the Wizards went away from the formula that had worked so well in the first half.

"I wish you could hear how many times I say attack the rim. Don't settle for jump shots. But it has to be taken out there," Collins said. "When you live on that perimeter, unless you shoot an unbelievably high percentage, you can't win. You don't get to the free-throw line. All the good things we were doing, we stopped doing.

"Give New Jersey a lot of credit. They're a good team. The thing about them is they're tough. They're physically and mentally tough. It got them through a game like tonight when they were without two of their better players."

The Wizards made a last, desperate push, slicing the lead to five with 4:02 left.

But Nets forward Richard Jefferson made one of two free throws with 2:39 left, and back-up point guard Anthony Johnson converted two foul shots 20 seconds later to push the advantage back to eight.

FGFTReb

WASHINGTONMinM-AM-AO-TAPFPTS

MJordan374-160-00-5528

Laettner303-51-11-7457

Haywood292-70-02-9104

Stackhouse3910-205-61-53627

Hughes314-94-41-82112

Lue202-72-20-0107

Russell201-60-00-2022

Brown243-63-41-2119

Thomas100-12-21-4112

Totals24029-7717-197-42181878

Percentages: FG .377, FT .895. 3-point goals: 3-12, .250 (Stackhouse 2-5, Lue 1-4, Hughes 0-1, Russell 0-2). Team rebounds: 8. Team Turnovers: 12 (8 PTS). Blocked shots: 5 (Brown 2, Haywood 2, Laettner). Turnovers: 12 (Stackhouse 6, M.Jordan 3, Laettner 2, Lue). Steals: 1 (Stackhouse). Technical fouls: Defensive Three Second, 8:25 first; Russell, 9:22 fourth; Stackhouse, 8.1 fourth. Ejected: Stackhouse, 8.1 fourth. FGFTReb

NEW JERSEYMinM-AM-AO-TAPFPTS

Jefferson439-136-82-73324

Martin426-167-126-218219

JCollins283-60-02-5026

Harris375-182-30-13313

Kidd261-101-11-4404

Scalabrine112-40-00-1004

Johnson264-82-20-35610

Williams202-41-21-4135

Childs70-01-10-0121

Totals24032-7920-2912-46252186

Percentages: FG .405, FT .690. 3-point goals: 2-8, .250 (Kidd 1-4, Harris 1-4). Team rebounds: 10. Team Turnovers: 9 (7 PTS). Blocked shots: 4 (Williams 2, Harris, J.Collins). Turnovers: 9 (Jefferson 5, Childs 2, Martin, Williams). Steals: 7 (Harris 3, Jefferson 2, J.Collins, Childs). Technical fouls: None. Washington19241619-78

New Jersey17222621-86

A: 20,049 (20,049). T: 2:04. Officials: Steve Javie, Luis Grillo, Tony Brown.

Wizards tonight

Opponent:Milwaukee Bucks

Site:Bradley Center, Milwaukee

Time: 8

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

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