Bucks have range against Wizards, 97-90

3-pointers increase lead in Eastern's playoff race

Pro Basketball

January 31, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE - You'll forgive the Washington Wizards for thinking they were looking in a mirror last night as they faced the Milwaukee Bucks, who rely heavily on the jump shot to make up for the absence of a reliable inside attack.

The Wizards found an interior game last night, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Bucks' perimeter game as Milwaukee pulled out a 97-90 win before 18,717, only the second sellout at Bradley Center all season.

The oft-forgotten sophomore duo of Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas provided the nuts and bolts of Washington's effort to stay in the contest, with the Bucks hitting 10 three-pointers and a passel of clutch perimeter jumpers.

Brown tied a career high with 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds; Thomas had nine points and a season-high 12 rebounds.

"We've been getting each other ready in practice pretty much all year," Thomas said. "We just try to stay ready. It's the same old song. We try to stay ready when he [coach Doug Collins] calls us. Sometimes, it happens, sometimes, it doesn't, but we know what we can do inside."

Said Brown: "It was good to get that experience. Now, we have that bitter taste in our mouths, so that next time, we'll be just as hungry, and hopefully we'll play better."

The Wizards (22-25) needed all the offensive help they could get because Jerry Stackhouse, their leading scorer, missed most of the second half with a flare-up of the left groin pull that recently sidelined him for four games.

Stackhouse, who had five points in 22 minutes, said the injury was aggravated in Monday's win over Phoenix and as the Wizards played last night after playing the night before in New Jersey. He said he likely would sit out Washington's last two games before the All-Star Game.

"You never know," said Stackhouse. "I knew I had to test it for my own mind-set. I couldn't just sit on the sideline and just say, `all right, it feels good' without even trying. I got a little mileage out of it. It just swelled up in a bad area. I think I have a high tolerance for pain. I always feel like I can play hurt. There's a big difference between playing hurt and playing injured, and this is playing injured."

The Bucks (23-22) hit six three-pointers in the first quarter to take a two-game lead over Washington in the race for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Sam Cassell (Dunbar) led all scorers with 31 points, including a key baseline jumper with 1:03 remaining to give Milwaukee a 91-87 lead, while Tim Thomas had 17. Anthony Mason had eight points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Michael Jordan had 24 points in his final appearance in Milwaukee, playing most of the fourth quarter with a young lineup.

"It's a growing experience for our young guys to think soundly, and a couple of times they didn't," said Jordan. "Unfortunately, Jerry had his problems, but Kwame and Etan played great."

Milwaukee finished 15-for-16 from the free-throw line - including all 12 attempts in the fourth quarter - while the Wizards shot only 15-for-24 from the foul line, but went to the line only seven times in the final quarter.

NOTE: Collins said he "would not bet" on center Jahidi White (left knee) returning this season.

Next for Wizards

Opponent:New Orleans Hornets

Site:MCI Center, Washington

When:Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

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

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