Nearly blowing a 21-point lead to the New York Knicks is hardly reason to celebrate these days.
Larry Hughes and Jerry Stackhouse each scored 22 points and both went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final minute as the Wizards held on to beat the Knicks 100-97 on Saturday night.
"We've kicked away about three games like that this year,'' Washington coach Doug Collins said. "It should not have gotten to that point. We just got totally broken down. It's unbelievable. I've never seen a group of guys go from playing such pretty basketball to what that ball just starts getting kicked all over the gym.
"I don't like getting into these situations. These are the kind that break your heart.''
Hughes' points matched a season high, and he also had 10 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double. Jordan nearly got his first double-double with 20 points and nine rebounds. Christian Laettner scored a season-high 15 points.
The Knicks trailed 74-53 in the third quarter before cutting the
lead to one twice in the final minute. But the Wizards made their
free throws, giving New York only one shot to try to tie it -- Charlie Ward's 3-pointer just before time expired.
"We kept fighting,'' Sprewell said. "So it is somewhat of a moral victory just because we know we were 21 points down and we got back into the game.''
Coach Don Chaney wasn't buying that.
"I'm not a moral victory guy,'' Chaney said. "I hope and I keep saying this, and I know it gets redundant after a while, but our players realize that with the makeup of our team we have to play a certain way every single night for four quarters. And for whatever reason, we're not getting it.''
The Knicks went to a full-court press to end the third quarter with an 18-6 run and opened the fourth with a 4-0 spurt to close to 80-75.
But Jordan re-entered with 10:07 to play and kept the Wizards afloat with a baseline layup, a jumper and a pair of free throws. The Wizards are 3-2 since Jordan returned to the starting lineup.
Another force for the Wizards was Charles Oakley, who assisted on five of Jordan's baskets and grabbed six rebounds. Jordan, Oakley and Laettner -- all timeworn veterans -- have helped led the Wizards' recent resurgence after a six-game losing streak.
Jordan only wishes the younger players -- particularly those who
were in the game when the Knicks started to rally -- would take note.
"It's a young team getting overconfident and not really doing the necessary things that you did to get the lead, and that's going to have to go,'' Jordan said. "You can't get out chasing stats or start doing things on your own when all along you did it collectively with the unit.''
The Wizards started to take control in the second quarter, opening with an 8-2 run to take a 35-26 lead.
Jordan had 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting in the period, and the
Wizards were on the verge of embarrassing the Knicks when
Stackhouse put down a reverse slam on a fastbreak and dunked an
alley-oop pass from Hughes on back-to-back possessions. Sprewell
salvaged some momentum for New York with a running 3-pointer at the
buzzer to make it 56-47 at halftime.
The Wizards shot 60 percent in the first half, outrebounded the Knicks 20-12 and had a 22-8 advantage in points in the paint.
An 18-6 run to open the third quarter put the Wizards up by 21, but Chaney then called timeout and ordered the strategy that has befuddled Washington all season -- the full-court press. New York then started its run, fueled by forced turnovers and 3-point shots.
"We didn't close it out the way we would like to,'' Stackhouse
said. "We had full control of the game, and instead of having that
killer instinct and putting them out, we allowed them to hang
Kwame Brown, the No. 1 overall pick a year ago, did not play for the first time this season. He started the first 16 games before being benched during a six-game losing streak. ... The Knicks are 1-6 on the road. ... The Wizards released center Ratko Varda, who had been on the injured list all season with a sore right hamstring and sore lower back.