Wizards maintain winning touch in toppling Clippers

Four players surpass 20 points as Washington holds on for 112-100 win

Pro Basketball

February 07, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - As a mammoth seven-game homestand goes into the history books, the Washington Wizards will likely wonder why they couldn't play the way they did at the start and finish of the stretch in the middle.

Indeed, for a time through the middle of last night's game with the Los Angeles Clippers, it appeared that the Wizards would lay another egg, squandering a 22-point first-quarter lead.

For a change, though, the Wizards withstood a run and came back with one of their own, beating the Clippers, 112-100, to finish the homestand 3-4.

Unlike Wednesday night, when the Memphis Grizzlies came back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit, Washington (15-33) held off Los Angeles (22-26) with a nice closing kick.

"We hope we can carry it over," Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. "We just said before the game that there was a knot still in our stomach from what happened the other night, just an awful, awful knot that bothered the heck out of all of us. It took a day and a half and we finally got it untied, I guess."

Four Wizards scored 20 or more points, the first time that's happened since March 29, 2001, and all five Washington starters scored in double figures - the first time that's happened all season.

"That's a great feeling," forward Kwame Brown said. "We kind of let one go the last game, so we definitely wanted to come back and play strong. We had a bad taste in our mouths and coach talked about having that feeling in the gut."

Washington was hot right off the bat, cruising out to a 25-3 lead in the first six minutes, hitting its seven shots, while the Clippers went 1-for-11.

Jerry Stackhouse (23 points) and Gilbert Arenas (25) got the Wizards started, with 11 each in the first quarter, before the Clippers slowly chipped away at the Wizards' lead, drawing within 13 at halftime.

In the third quarter, Los Angeles, which had won three straight road games, used its front-court athleticism to get second shot after second shot, capping a 27-14 run with a three-pointer from Marko Jaric that tied the game at 78 with 2:46 left in the period.

The crowd of 12,949 got restless, fearing a repeat of Wednesday, but Brown got hot down the stretch, scoring 13 of his 22 points in the final period, as the Wizards pulled away. The Clippers never got closer than six in the final nine minutes.

"They made their run, but while they were making that run, we had three turnovers that could have cut that run short," said Larry Hughes, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds. "We turned the ball over and they were able to tie the game up. We took it and got settled back down and played better defense and were able to score on the other end."

The finish was a sweet touch for the Wizards, who have had trouble closing out teams.

With Arenas and Stackhouse seemingly back from injuries that kept them out of the lineup for extended periods, the Wizards potentially can match an opponent's offensive fire, something that hasn't been possible all season.

"With Stack and Gilbert back, we can definitely light it up," Brown said. "Stack set the tone in the beginning. Larry started going and Gilbert started going, then other guys started stepping it up as the game progressed. We have all our guns back now."

Wizards tonight

Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers

Site: Gund Arena, Cleveland

Time: 7:30

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

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