Wizards losing hope after loss to Knicks

Weekend's 2nd setback leaves team 6 back in race for East's final playoff spot

March 08, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Things happen fast in the NBA. Need proof? Just ask the Washington Wizards, who went from being on the periphery of the Eastern Conference playoff race to just about out of it in one two-game, 48-hour swing.

After collapsing in the third quarter in Boston Friday night, the Wizards closed a weekend that had hope by laying an egg in a 99-86 loss to the New York Knicks at MCI Center yesterday.

"We came up short in two games," said guard Juan Dixon. "We could have picked up a whole game in these last two games. We lost a tough one in Boston. We had a nice lead and we let them get back in the game. We just have to learn how to turn up a level when these playoff teams turn it up a notch. We have to respond and we didn't the last two games."

The Wizards (20-41), who, after Wednesday's win over Toronto were just 4 1/2 games out of the last Eastern playoff spot and riding a four-wins-in-five-games tailwind, have lost two straight and are six games out of the final playoff position, with 21 to play.

The Wizards, who clinched a fifth straight non-winning season, ran their record against their foes in the Atlantic Division - where only one team is above .500 - to 1-15, as the Knicks (29-35) converted 18 Washington turnovers into 24 points.

"We don't feel like it's slipping away," said rookie Jarvis Hayes. "We just need to make a move and make a move quick. If we want to be where we want to be at the end of this season, we need to start winning some of these games."

The Washington backcourt of Dixon (25 points) and Gilbert Arenas (28 points) held their own against New York's Stephon Marbury (24 points, 13 assists) and Allan Houston (23 points).

However, the Knicks took advantage of the Wizards' persistent bugaboo - interior play - as New York's frontcourt thoroughly outplayed Washington's.

The Knicks' starters up front - center Nazr Mohammed and forwards Kurt Thomas and Tim Thomas - combined for 37 points and 20 rebounds, while their Washington counterparts - center Brendan Haywood and forwards Hayes and Kwame Brown - had 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Even New York rookie Michael Sweetney - a former Georgetown standout - had a career-high 10 rebounds off the bench.

"Guys just didn't finish," said Brown, who had just two of his seven points after halftime. "Jarvis is a little dinged up. I'm a little dinged up - not to make excuses, because whenever you're out there on the floor, you have to play. It just boils down to we missed shots. There's no excuses involved. We missed shots."

Said Washington coach Eddie Jordan: "We talked about these two games on the weekend being crucial games. To just get outworked from a couple of individuals out there from their team, and some individuals on our team not working as hard ... again, if one or two or three don't do it, then we all are in it. As a whole, they outworked us and we didn't get it done in the effort department."

Already trailing 67-62 in the third, the Wizards played helplessly, turning the ball over on three possessions and missing three shots on three other possessions. The Knicks, meanwhile, converted on all six of their trips during the stretch.

The result: A 12-0 New York run that put the game away.

"After halftime, I don't know what we need to do, stay out there on the floor and do layups, come in here," said Arenas. "We need to do something different. Everybody needs to drink some energy drinks, I don't know. We need to get our focus up."

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Denver Nuggets

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

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

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