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Wizards dump Knicks in season finale

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington Wizards' season started with a
loss to the New York Knicks, with Michael Jordan missing a shot
with the game on the line.

It ended with a victory over the Knicks, with Jordan on the
bench and three rookies leading the way in the fourth quarter.

Seven Wizards -- including rookies Bobby Simmons, Kwame Brown and
Etan Thomas -- scored in double figures in Tuesday night's 116-112
win.

It was a glimpse of the Wizards future beyond Jordan, who might
or might not play next season.

"A great way for us to end the season," coach Doug Collins
said. "Three rookies finished that game. I wanted those guys to
play through at the end and find a way to win, and they did."

Courtney Alexander scored 20 points, and Tyrone Nesby had 18. As
for the rookies, Simmons scored a career-high 15, Thomas had 11,
and Brown had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Wizards finished 37-45, nearly doubling the number of wins
from the 19-63 season a year ago. They went 30-30 when Jordan
played; 7-15 when he didn't.

"We wanted to be in the playoffs," said Popeye Jones, who had
11 points and nine rebounds. "But it's still good to end on a good
note, and going into the summer knowing that we all need to work
hard and that expectations are going to be a lot higher. And I
think that's a good thing."

Jordan, whose second comeback ignited the big-time atmosphere at
the nationally televised opener in Madison Square Garden, ended the
season on the injured list with a bad knee. Jordan, who's not
expected to announce his playing status for next year until
September, was not available for comment after the game.

The Knicks, meanwhile, have to endure one more night of this.
Out of the playoffs for the first time since 1987, their season
will end Wednesday night at home against New Jersey.

"It doesn't matter if it's the last game or the 20th game,"
coach Don Chaney said. "I want them to be competitive. I want them
to play together, and I want them to play hard."

Latrell Sprewell scored 26 points and Allan Houston had 24 for
the Knicks, who seemed to play the first half in slow motion.
Chaney called timeout after timeout and strayed far from the bench
several times to get his team going, and it finally worked in the
third quarter when Sprewell scored 13 straight points to help cut
an 18-point lead to four.

"We didn't have the right mindset early and consistently
throughout the game," Houston said. "One thing that Don said is:
'You can't turn it on and off.' ... It's just a focus that you've
got to bring, and we didn't bring that focus and mental intensity
to get it done. That's where we've struggled this year."

Thomas scored on a pair of hook shots in 12-0 run that put the
Wizards up 38-29 early in the second quarter. The Wizards shot 59
percent in the quarter to take a 59-51 halftime lead.

The Wizards opened the second half with a 13-3 run before
Sprewell's streak made it close again. Washington responded with a
6-0 run, capped by Brown's half-hook, to get the lead back to
double digits.

The Knicks cut a 12-point lead to four in the fourth on a
3-pointer by Sprewell that made it 107-103 with 2:17 to play. The
big sequence came when Brown blocked Sprewell's driving jumper,
then seconds later he saved a loose ball heading out of bounds by
throwing it off the leg of Kurt Thomas.

The Wizards won the final game of the season for the first time
since 1998.

"That would have been a terrible taste if we had kicked that
game away," Collins said.

Game notes
Wizards G Richard Hamilton missed the game with a strained
right groin. C Jahidi White sat out with a sprained right ankle.
Rookie C Brendan Haywood, who did play, will undergo arthroscopic
knee surgery Monday. ... The Wizards sold out all their home games
for the first time in franchise history, although they have a long,
long way to go before they can match the Knicks' streak of 431
consecutive sellouts. ... The 116 points were a Wizards season
high. ... Earlier Tuesday, Sprewell said the Knicks went
"overboard" and were "too severe" when they suspended him for
Sunday's game against Miami. Sprewell was fined about $125,000
after he failed to show up for Sunday morning's shootaround without
notifying team officials. Sprewell said he plans to file an appeal
through the Players' Association.

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