Spurs toy with short-handed Wizards

Laettner's back, ejection of Hughes make it even easier on champs, 95-71

Pro Basketball

November 16, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Beating the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs last night was going to be a tough enough challenge for the callow Washington Wizards, even if they played well.

A confluence of factors, namely poor shooting, an injury to center Christian Laettner, the first-half ejection of guard Larry Hughes and solid Spurs defense, all came into play in a 95-71 San Antonio win, the Wizards' fourth straight loss.

Laettner was a late scratch from the lineup because of back spasms, forcing Brendan Haywood and Kwame Brown to guard two-time Most Valuable Player Tim Duncan.

The results weren't especially pretty. Duncan, who twisted his ankle Friday in Philadelphia, scored an efficient 17 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in 30 minutes - not even getting up off the bench in the fourth period.

Meanwhile, Brown and Haywood combined to score just 10 points on 5-for-15 shooting, but they weren't the only Wizards who couldn't find the touch.

Rookie Jarvis Hayes had his worst shooting performance as a pro, with six points on 3-for-10 shooting, snapping an eight-game stretch in double figures. Gilbert Arenas led the team in scoring with 14 points, but shot 4-for-19 from the field.

The Spurs (6-5) spotted Washington (3-6) a nine-point first-quarter lead, then outscored the Wizards 53-23 in the second and third periods, before a sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.

"We played a great first quarter. We got blocks and deflections and steals," said Washington coach Eddie Jordan. "Then, we couldn't make shots. They do a good job defensively taking care of the paint and we couldn't make open jumpers."

The Spurs, who had begun to assert themselves even before Hughes was tossed late in the second period, shot a sizzling 12-for-17 - 71 percent - from the field in the third quarter.

Malik Rose had 23 points off the bench to lead all scorers, while reserve point guard Jason Hart had 12 points, on 6-for-7 shooting.

The Wizards, meanwhile, shot a miserable 3-for-19 in the same period, as what had been a six-point halftime deficit mushroomed to 21 by the end of the third.

"Then the game got out of hand and they pretty much tasted the blood and they can finish you off, because they are a good team," said Jordan. "We fought as much as we could and we just didn't have enough."

Hughes, who scored 10 points in the first quarter, was ejected with 3:21 left in the first half, after being called for a foul near the San Antonio bench, while battling with Bruce Bowen for a loose ball. The usually implacable Hughes glared at official Courtney Kirkland, who called the foul, then tossed the ball in an underhand motion, down the floor, away from the action.

Bill Spooner, the trail official, immediately whistled Hughes for a technical foul, then tossed him from the game as the Wizards bench and the crowd stared, dumb-founded.

Spooner said he ejected Hughes because he "threw the ball at my partner," meaning Kirkland, who was near the scorer's table, while the ball rolled to center court.

After the game, Hughes maintained that he had not thrown the ball at Kirkland.

"I think it was a kind of overreaction to the situation," said Hughes. "I lost my head for a second, but the penalty was a little severe, to be ejected on a ball rolling down the court. ... The ball was never in the air, never aimed. I never cocked back and had anybody in my sights."

NOTE: Jerry Stackhouse said he does not have a timetable for his return, following arthroscopic knee surgery Friday.

Stackhouse, who has not played at all this season because of a bruise behind his right kneecap, said the doctors who tended to him could not give him a time frame for his return.

"The only timetable I got was come back and see him in a month," said Stackhouse.

Stackhouse said he hopes to return by Christmas.

Washington's leading scorer said the swelling within the knee has subsided somewhat, but the doctors remain concerned about scar tissue.

"That's the thing that we have to be worried about," said Stackhouse. "If that [bruise] comes back and gets irritated, then the scar tissue will return. We want to make sure that the bruise behind the kneecap heals.'

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Atlanta Hawks

Site: Philips Arena, Atlanta

When: Tomorrow, 7:30 p.m.

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

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