Wizards fall, 93-80

Jordan rips effort

Coach sees lack of heart by team against Rockets

Pro Basketball

January 14, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - For once, the Washington Wizards held down their turnovers and got solid production from their bench, which should have added up to a win.

However, the Wizards allowed the Houston Rockets to shoot a blistering 52 percent from the field and pound them on the boards 44-31, thereby suffering the expected, 93-80 loss before 16,254 at MCI Center last night.

Afterward, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, in a three-minute burst of controlled fury, let loose on his team, particularly his big men, contending that they had shown little heart and pride.

"We didn't follow the game plan," Jordan said. "I thought [Houston coach] Jeff Van Gundy had a very good strategy and a very well-coached game. We just have to keep working. We have to finish defensive plays. We didn't finish our rotation, and if we did rotate, we didn't shot-block.

"We didn't get our scorers in the paint, and we couldn't score against them. They're a very good defensive team. We didn't play like men [last night]."

Indeed, the Rockets (21-16) worked the inside-out game to perfection, with their perimeter players, guards Steve Francis (Maryland) and Cuttino Mobley, and small forward Jim Jackson torching the Wizards from the outside early on, combining for eight three-pointers in the first three quarters.

Once Houston had the Wizards (10-26) scrambling on the outside, Houston's interior went to work on Washington's big players. Second-year center Yao Ming, for instance, took control in the third quarter, scoring 14 of his 21 points in the period, including eight of Houston's 10 in one span.

"You have to give them some credit," said forward Kwame Brown, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. "We have to hustle more getting out of the pick and rolls, so they can't string us out so far. It was tough on the big men [last night], because the guards couldn't help. They were guarding those three-pointers."

In the fourth, the Wizards nearly erased a 10-point deficit with an 8-0 run, as Larry Hughes (23 points) and Steve Blake hit three-pointers, followed by a jump hook from Etan Thomas that cut Houston's lead to 75-73 with 9:53 left.

The Rockets immediately replied with a 12-3 spurt.

"It's not lacking discipline," said Jordan. "It's just not knowing how to take another step up. You need a little bit more heart, a little bit more trust in your teammates and you need to play intelligently. You have to know how to win. You have to have a feel for the game. We just don't have a feel for the game to win the game. [Last night], it was our big people [who didn't]."

NOTES: The Wizards announced that fans who were unable to attend last night's game because of the accident that closed a portion of Interstate-95 will be permitted to exchange their tickets for seats at Saturday's 7 p.m. game against Seattle. Fans can exchange tickets beginning this morning at MCI Center through tip-off Saturday.

Wizards tonight

Opponent: New Jersey Nets

Site: Continential Airlines Arena, East Rutherford, N.J.

Time: 7:30

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

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