Wallace blocks Wizards' bid for OT win as Pistons prevail

2nd ex-Wizard Hamilton also finishes strong, 94-90

Washington set to go west

Pro Basketball

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

WASHINGTON - Less than 15 seconds into last night's contest, Michael Jordan drove the lane with a clear path to the basket and a seeming easy first basket of the game against the Detroit Pistons.

However, Pistons center Ben Wallace emerged from nowhere to stone Jordan's attempt, with Detroit turning the block into a basket, hardly an auspicious start for a Washington Wizards team needing a win before a long West Coast trip.

Indeed, Wallace's early block was a harbinger of things to come, as he blocked Jordan again with 32.9 seconds to go in overtime to spark a 94-90 Detroit win.

Wallace had six points and 20 rebounds - his fourth straight game with as many rebounds-while another former Wizard Richard Hamilton torched Washington with six points in the extra session to knock the Wizards (32-35) back into a tie with the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 15 games to play.

Hamilton, who spent his first three NBA seasons in Washington before being traded to Detroit last offseason for Jerry Stackhouse, shot poorly for most of the game, hitting just seven of 17 shots, and was in foul trouble in the fourth quarter.

But in the overtime, Hamilton hit three tough jumpers - a 16-footer from the baseline, a 20-footer over Stackhouse after Wallace made a remarkable save of the rebound before it went out of bounds, and another 20-footer.

"I'm always confident," said Hamilton. "That's one thing about me, I never lose focus. I don't know where I get it from, but regardless of what point in the game, I can miss five in a row and be ready for the sixth shot."

"He was fresh," Washington coach Doug Collins said. "He came in with fresh legs. He got some open looks and he made them. Rip is very capable of doing that. He did that for us here. Because of the foul trouble, he was just fresh when he came in during the overtime. Rip hurt us."

Chauncey Billups had 26 points to lead the Pistons (42-24).

Jordan and Stackhouse were terrific for the Wizards in the fourth period, combining to score all but two of Washington's 23 points in the quarter. Stackhouse scored 14 of his 28 points in the fourth, including Washington's last 10, though he missed a desperation three-point try at the buzzer over Detroit's Clifford Robinson that would have won the game in regulation.

"They're the best team in the Eastern Conference," Stackhouse said of his former team. "We have to get better. We can't allow somebody to come in and get 20 rebounds and we have to do what we can to win the game. We have to grow up and we have to grow up fast, because we're about to go on the road."

The Wizards, who leave for a six-game West Coast trip starting Friday in Phoenix, got nothing from their bench, which was outscored by the Pistons' reserves 38-5 for the game. Detroit's bench contributed all of the team's scoring on a decisive 16-2 fourth-quarter run that gave the Pistons a seven-point lead.

"We didn't get much from our bench today," said Jordan, who had 23 points. "In fairness, they didn't get on much to get a rhythm, but on the road, our bench is needed, because we have so many games in such a short time. Hopefully, they'll get an opportunity and give us some productivity. You can't win on the road without a bench."

Christian Laettner had 12 points and a season-high 18 rebounds - his fourth double double in the past 10 games. He hit a pair of jumpers, the second from the baseline with 1:07 to go, in the extra period to keep Washington close.

But Billups hit a tough runner with 12.9 seconds to go to give Detroit a five-point lead. Stackhouse scored on a drive with 9.1 seconds remaining to get the lead down to three, but Robinson hit one of two free throws with 8.1 seconds left to ice it.

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Phoenix Suns

Site: America West Arena, Phoenix

When: Friday, 9 p.m.

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

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