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 when they faced the Milwaukee Bucks, who, like the Wizards, 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 Bucks hit 10 three-pointers and a passel of clutch perimeter jumpers 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 (23-22) a 91-87 lead.

Michael Jordan had 24 points in his final appearance in Milwaukee, while Kwame Brown chipped in a season-high 20 points, and Etan Thomas had nine points and a season-high 12 rebounds.

The Wizards 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.

The Wizards, who trailed through most of the first three quarters, used an 11-2 run at the end of the third to take a 68-67 lead into the fourth quarter.

But after leading 80-79 with 5:08 to play on a Jordan fade away, the Wizards didn't lead again as the Bucks hit big shot after big shot, in addition to sinking their free throws. Milwaukee finished 15-for-16 from the free-throw line, including all 12 attempts in the fourth quarter; the Wizards shot only 15-for-24 from the foul line but only went to the line seven times in the fourth quarter.

The Bucks threatened to shoot the Wizards out of Bradley Center in the first period, especially from three-point range, where they shot 75 percent from behind the bonus line, hitting six of eight shots. Every where you looked, a Milwaukee player was squaring up and hitting a mostly uncontested three-pointer, with Tim Thomas leading the way with three of them in the period for nine of his 11first quarter points.

Meanwhile, outside of Jordan, who hit three of his first four shots, the Wizards were largely cold in the period, but were able to stay relatively close by pounding the offensive glass. Still, Thomas' third three-pointer of the quarter with 2:45 left gave Milwaukee a 26-14 lead. However, the Wizards outscored the Bucks 10-6 the rest of the quarter to slice the deficit at the end of the first to 32-24.

In the second, Washington went to work inside, out-rebounding the Bucks 10-4 in the period, with a 4-1 advantage on the offensive glass. The Wizards were able to turn that into an 8-2 advantage in second-chance points, which they used to get back into the game. Jordan's free throw with 3:53 left capped a 16-9 run that trimmed Milwaukee's lead down t 41-40.

But the Bucks closed the half by outscoring Washington 12-7.

NOTES: Wizards coach Doug Collins said he "would not bet" on injured center Jahidi White, who started 69 games last sea son, being able to play at all this season. White, a four-year veteran who has spent his entire career in Washington, has been sidelined all season with a left knee injury suffered in the offseason.

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