- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2000

WIZARDS 88, BULLS 83

CHICAGO This game was hard on the eyes.
Consider that for 610 consecutive games dating back to Nov. 20, 1987 all of the Chicago Bulls' games were sold out. But the team's fortunes have spiraled downward after the Michael Jordan's Bulls were broken up in 1998 following the last of six championships in eight seasons.
So last night, with the nation's eyes fixed on the closest presidential election in more than 40 years and with a visit to the United Center by the Washington Wizards, the third longest streak of sellouts in NBA history was broken as a crowd of 21,312 attended the game. The United Center holds 21,711. If symbolism means anything, the last time the Bulls did not sell out a home game was Nov. 17, 1987 against Washington. Those who stayed away must have had a good hunch of what these two teams had in store: an absolute atrocity of a game won by the Wizards, 88-83.
Just how bad was this night of "pro basketball?"
Consider:
Washington improved to 2-3 despite shooting 31 percent.
Both teams combined to shoot 53-for-165 from the field.
Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton said that it was good defense and not bad offense that was responsible for the poor shooting by both teams.
"That's how I look at it," Hamilton said. "When you're not playing well and you're not scoring with any type of efficiency, you have to feel that at some point in the game some shots are going to fall and that's really what happened."
Those shots fell at last for the Wizards in the stretch.
After Chicago's Khalid El-Amin (21 points) gave the Bulls (0-4) a 76-73 lead with 4:35 left in the game, the Wizards held the Bulls to just two field goals the rest of the way. But the Wizards outscored the Bulls 15-7 down the stretch to earn the victory. Rod Strickland connected on 14 of 17 free throws and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Wizards.
Both the Wizards and the Bulls missed shots from point-blank range. Each team made just three field goals the Wizards in the first quarter and the Bulls in the third in a quarter.
Although the Bulls have added some new faces like Ron Mercer and Brad Miller, they have for the most part been the same bad basketball team that they were last season. They began the night scoring a league-low 81.3 points a game. Part of this is due to the fact that teams around the league are now very quick to double-team Elton Brand as soon as the ball goes inside to last year's co-Rookie of the Year.
Mercer has struggled as well. A career 16.9 points scorer, Mercer has had trouble in the new offense. As a result, Mercer is averaging just 14.7 points and is struggling from the field where he has made just 37.5 percent of his field goals.
Bad as that is, what the Wizards did in the first quarter of last night's game was even more horrendous. They made just 3 of 20 field goals in the quarter. They missed their first 16 shots from the field and didn't hit a field goal until Felipe Lopez scored with 5:07 left in the quarter. Lay-ups (Michael Smith), dunks (Jahidi White) and jump shots off all different varieties, you name it and the Wizards blew it on the way to making just 13 percent of their first-quarter shots. How else can it be explained that the Bulls were able to lead by 22-14 after one quarter.
This might not have looked so bad had it happened against one of the NBA team's known for playing a little bit of defense, but the Bulls haven't played defense now in about three years now.
In spite of their hideous exhibition in the first quarter, the Wizards never trailed by more than eight points. This enabled them to mount a mini-charge of their own in the second quarter, and when Washington's Mitch Richmond pulled up and drilled a 17-footer with 6:37 left in the second quarter the Wizards led for the first time in the game.

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