- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000


On more than one occasion this season, Washington Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton has said that he is not interested in moral victories, the type that come from being good but just not good enough.
That's understandable.
Last night before 19,832 at MCI Center, the Wizards clawed and scratched but could not get over the giant hump that is the San Antonio Spurs and eventually dropped a 99-95 decision.
The loss continued an ugly trend. It was the Wizards' fifth in a row and seventh in their last eight games. Also, the Wizards have yet to win a game at MCI, where they are 0-4. This is just the second time in the team's history it has lost its first four games at home. The other time was in 1997.
Wasted in this loss was a sterling effort from point guard Rod Strickland, who finished with a game-high 24 points and handed out nine assists.
David Robinson led the Spurs winners of four of their last five and now 7-2 with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Tim Duncan started slowly but finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds. And Derek Anderson, signed by the team in the offseason to the $2.25 million veteran exception, added 19 points.
Once again the Wizards cut down on their turnovers (15) and won the battle of the boards (41-40). And even though they fell behind, they never had to look up from a double-digit deficit at all.
But as has been the case often this season, the game got away from the Wizards late.
After Strickland hit an off-balance layup with 4:42 left in the game to give Washington an 89-86 lead, the Wizards experienced one of those offensive slumps that have haunted them. They did not hit another basket until backup center Cherokee Parks hit a long jumper with 1:13 left. In between, the Spurs scored nine unanswered points, including Anderson's 3-point jumper with 2:00 left that put the Spurs on top 95-89.
Coming into last night's game, San Antonio was starting to show signs of regaining the championship form that resulted in the team's only NBA title two seasons ago. In their previous three games, the Spurs had held each opponent under 79 points. But it was clear from the outset that the Wizards, to whom every game is a must-win situation, would come out strong.
The Wizards have been looking for a player who can give them a spark in the early stages of games and energize a team that has fallen into the trap of digging early holes and then having to climb out of them.
Against the Spurs' gigantic front line, the Wizards made it clear that they wanted that person to be center Jahidi White, and early on he was hot.
White scored seven points and grabbed five rebounds in his first seven minutes. The only problem was that he also picked up his third foul with more than five minutes left in the first quarter. He eventually fouled out with 7:09 left, finishing with nine points and six rebounds in 13 minutes.
With White curtailed by the fouls, Washington found offense in a place where it hasn't doesn't so too often the bench.
Richard Hamilton sizzled in the first half, hitting his first seven shots in a row to lead Washington with 16 points on his way to 19 points and eight rebounds. With White in foul trouble, Parks was called on early and put up six points in the first quarter and finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
With the bench playing a key role, the Wizards led 47-39 following Hamilton's jumper with 7:12 left before halftime.
San Antonio rallied with a 16-4 run that put the Spurs ahead 55-51. But instead of going into a shell, Washington got three straight baskets at the end of the half to lead 57-55.

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