- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2000

HAWKS 102, WIZARDS 75

Tyrone Nesby can't get here fast enough.

Not long before the lowly Atlanta Hawks handed the Washington Wizards their worst beating of the season 102-75 last night at MCI Center, Washington acquired the Los Angeles Clippers' small forward in a trade for center Cherokee Parks and forward Obinna Ekezie. Nesby, who is averaging less than 13 points a game this season, is not a world beater, but anything anything has to be better than what was passed off by the home team as professional basketball.

Consider:

• The Hawks, playing without leading scorer Jimmy Jackson, won their first road game in 22 attempts. It is a streak that dates back to Feb. 25.

• It was the first time since April that the Hawks have beaten anybody by more than 20 points.

• Dating back to last season, the Wizards have not won back-to-back games in 23 games, a streak that is likely to grow today in their meeting with Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia.

Physically or mentally, the Wizards were never in last night's game. There was no fire, no apparent desire to pounce on and tear the heart out of a team that is considered lower on the NBA food chain than they are.

Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton called it the worst effort he has received this season from his team, and any who witnessed it will no doubt back him up. How else can it be explained when the victorious team turns the ball over 21 times and still wins by 27 points.

Washington made just 27 of 82 field goals on the night. And it didn't break 50 until Rod Strickland, who led the Wizards with 17 points, hit a pair of free throws that cut the Hawks' lead to 75-51 with 10:34 left in the game.

"Obviously we've had stretches this year where we've had a few minutes of lackluster play," said a discouraged Hamilton. "But never have we had a game where we seem to for whatever reason be as uninspired as we were tonight. You know that mentally that we want to go out and perform well, but for whatever reason we have created some atmosphere where we allow that to creep in.

"This mind-set tends to creep in and we have to get rid of it. Sometimes you have a tendency to not want to address it head on. But this is a very serious issue when we all give the same type of lackluster performance. This is something we know is unacceptable in any walk of life, especially performing at the level we need to perform at night in and night out in order to be successful."

Four Atlanta players scored in double digits, led by backup forward Lorenzen Wright. Wright scored 18 of his season-high 23 points in the first half when he shot 8-for-8 from the field. Wright also grabbed 12 rebounds to help the Hawks pound out a 50-38 rebound advantage over the Wizards.

Perhaps the Hawks had a little advantage in that they had former Washington coach Gar Heard sitting on the bench. Heard often complained that the Wizards were too passive in games, and it almost sounded as if Wright had been made aware of this fact by Heard.

"We knew if we came out and played aggressively we could probably come out and get a win," Wright said. "Sure we've lost 22 times in a row. But tonight we came out, played hard and it paid off."

And it did from the very start.

Atlanta led 25-18 at the end of the first quarter, but the Wizards had their hearts collectively removed in the second quarter. With Wright leading the way, the Hawks ended the half with a 21-5 run that put them up by 20 points at intermission. The 30 points the Wizards mustered while shooting just 31.7 percent from the floor in the first half was their worst outing to date.

They made just eight of 21 field goals in the first quarter and fell behind by seven points. And it wasn't the Hawks starters who were inflicting the damage on the Wizards either. Rather, Wright made all four of his shot attempts in the quarter on his way to scoring 10 points.

Could they have been looking beyond the Hawks?

"I don't know how," Strickland said. "We just had one of those nights."

Again.

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