Hawks stop cold Wizards in Arenas' return

Just 3 baskets in last 15:30 leave hosts at 83-73 loss

Pro Basketball

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

WASHINGTON - The spirit of holiday giving permeated MCI Center last night as the Washington Wizards gift-wrapped and handed an 83-73 game to the Atlanta Hawks with a remarkable display of poor shooting.

The Wizards (8-21) made just three baskets in the final 15:30, essentially handing a perfectly winnable game to an Atlanta team that was all too happy to receive it.

"That team [Atlanta] was hungry and energized," said Washington coach Eddie Jordan. "They were a team and we can get back to that. We just didn't seem to be a team like we have been for most of the season. It was too many individuals out there trying to get through as individuals. That is not how you play basketball, but each individual is trying and that's what happens."

An announced crowd of 13,897 showered the Wizards with boos midway through the first quarter, when the Hawks (9-24) jumped out to a 19-point lead, and serenaded them off the floor at the end of the game, after Washington had drawn within five to start the fourth quarter, then let Atlanta wriggle off the hook.

"It was the first night that the fans have been really disappointed," Jordan said. "They saw what we saw, not a real team effort. It's a test that we have to get through. We have to pass."

The lone piece of good news on the night for the Wizards, who dropped their fifth straight and 13th in their past 15, was that point guard Gilbert Arenas, who missed 14 of the team's last 15 games with a severe abdominal strain, returned to the lineup.

Arenas played 31 minutes but shot 5-for-19 from the field for 14 points. His troubles seemed to mirror Washington's plight. He hit a three-pointer to open the Wizards' scoring, then went 2-for-13 the rest of the half.

"I'm trying to take shots that I normally take," said Arenas. "It was a rough one. I'm not going to lie about it, but it feels good to get out there with my team and grunt."

Against virtually any other team in the league, the Wizards' sleepwalk through the first half would have left them without a prayer in the second half.

But the Hawks, who had dropped their past nine road games and 13 of their past 15 overall, weren't of a mind-set to take control of the game either. Atlanta scored a season-high 35 points in the first quarter, then scored only 30 total in the next two quarters. The Hawks hit 12 of their first 13 shots in the first quarter, then shot 26-for-74 the rest of the game, including one field goal over a 14-minute span.

"In the NBA there are always games that you let go," said Arenas. "There are teams that you shouldn't beat that you beat, and teams that you shouldn't have lost to that you lose to. But in the NBA, it's a long season and we just have to gut it out. We're at the bottom of the pole and we have to come out strong."

However, the Wizards, who tied a franchise low with only two wins in December, weren't exactly tossing them into the ocean from the beach either. Arenas' three-pointer at the 6:26 mark of the fourth quarter was Washington's lone basket over a 9:04 span of the third and fourth quarters.

"We just didn't get it done," said guard Larry Hughes, who led the Wizards with 24 points. "Everybody has to be aggressive, but we have to play together. I guess we have to figure out how to do that."

Atlanta's Shareef Abdur-Rahim led all scorers with 25 and all rebounders with 16. Jared Jeffries had 12 rebounds for Washington.

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Golden State Warriors

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

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

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