- The Washington Times - Friday, January 31, 2003

MILWAUKEE Sam Cassell's game-high 31 points and some clutch shooting by the Milwaukee Bucks late in the game sent the Washington Wizards to their fifth defeat in their last six games, 97-90, in front of the second sellout of the season (18,717) at Bradley Center
Michael Jordan led the Wizards (22-25 ) with 24 points, and Kwame Brown matched his career high (20) in defeat.
The Wizards were forced to play most of the second half without leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse, who aggravated his left groin. Stackhouse left the game for good in the second half and finished with five points on 2-for-13 shooting. He also had six assists and three rebounds in his 22 minutes
"I think I'm just going to have to shut it down," said Stackhouse of the injury. "I tried to rush back and put some pressure on it and it's just not responding. The best thing is to give it a week and don't do anything on it. We'll have to see how it responds. But I don't want this to keep on happening."
The loss was crucial because a victory would have given the Wizards the season series advantage against the Bucks a team that they could battle for a playoff berth at season's end.
The game was a good outing for the Brown and Etan Thomas. Wizards coach Doug Collins played both in crucial stretches at the end of the game.
Thomas finished with a season-high 12 rebounds helping the Wizards to a 46-34 rebounding edge and also scored nine points.
"They played well tonight," Collins said. "But losing Jerry was big. That and the play they got out of their veterans down the stretch. They hit big shots down the stretch."
They also made 10 of 21 3-pointers, which was huge.
After having big problems defending the Bucks' perimeter shooters, the Wizards' persistence on the boards finally yielded the results they wanted.
Trailing 67-60 late in the third, the Wizards scored eight unanswered points including six from Brown to take their first lead of the game, 68-67, at the end of the third quarter.
This was part of a 15-3 run that eventually extended the Wizards' lead to 75-72.
The Bucks used a 9-4 run to take an 87-84 lead with 2:24 left in the game. Ervin Johnson's free throws extended the Bucks' lead to 89-84. And after Jordan hit his a turnaround jumper, Cassell hit a 13-footer along the baseline to give the Bucks a 91-87 lead that forced the Wizards to call a full timeout with 1:03 left.
The Wizards' next possession produced nothing, and at the other end Anthony Mason sent the Wizards to defeat when he canned a 14-footer that made the score 93-87 and forced Washington to call another timeout with 35.2 left
Milwaukee opened the game playing a furiously up-tempo pace. They scored 32 points in the first quarter mostly because they made six of seven 3-point attempts.
Despite all of their outside shots, the Bucks connected on 59 percent of their shots on the way to scoring 32 points, the most any team has scored in the first quarter against the Wizards, and at one point they opened a 12-point lead, their largest of the first half.
The Bucks didn't cool off substantially in the second quarter, but their 3s became much less automatic than they had been. The Bucks reached halftime making 56.4 percent from the field but missed all of their five 3-point attempts.
Milwaukee continued to snipe away from the outside and this began to work in the Wizards' favor. Because their shots were not falling with the same frequency that they did in the first quarter, Washington stayed in the game by eating up most of the available rebounds. The Wizards won the battle of the boards 22-14 in the first half, masking the fact that they did not shoot as well from the field (43.2) as Milwaukee did.
The Wizards took full advantage of this in the second quarter and in not time they were back in the game, down just one, 41-40, following a Jordan free throw.
But the Bucks closed out the half on a 12-7 run to lead by 53-47 at the break.
The Wizards got a pleasant surprise in that Brown went for 12 points in the first half. Stackhouse, hampered by his left groin, struggled from the floor in the first half, making just two of 11.
Tim Thomas was one of three Milwaukee players in double digits by halftime, leading all scorers with 15. Cassell had 12 and Ray Allen had 11.
The highlight of the first quarter was generated by the Bucks' defense, though. Leading the Wizards 11-7 following a jumper by Casell, Stackhouse drove hard to the basket only to have his attempted dunk swatted away by Thomas.
Note Wizards coach Doug Collins expressed some concern before last night's game that center Jahidi White might be finished for the season. White's recovery from off-season surgery on his left knee is way behind schedule.
"I don't know that he's going to be able to play all year, as it stands right now," Collins said. "I would not bet on him right now being able to play at all this year. He's having a hard time getting strength in that leg where he can jump and move. His weight is down but he doesn't have any confidence in his leg power. And when we practice he is fouling all the time because he can't move. He doesn't have his strength and his balance yet. The thing about Jahidi is that when he's right as a player he has good mobility and has good power. He can do some things and move across the lane.
"But when he can't do that, when he can't jump and move, it's tough for him."


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