- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2000

76ERS 93, WIZARDS 87

PHILADELPHIA For most of last night, Philadelphia 76ers center Theo Ratliff loomed over the Washington Wizards like a dark storm cloud.

But the bottom line is that after blocking eight of his career-high tying nine shots through three quarters of the 76ers' 93-87 win over the Wizards last night, Ratliff was not much of a factor late. And with the 76ers shooting just 15 percent in the fourth quarter, the Wizards needed someone to step up to give them what very well could have been their biggest win of the season.

Down by 16 points in the second quarter, the Wizards took an 87-86 lead with 2:42 left in the game on a pair of free throws from guard Rod Strickland. That's the good news. The bad news is that no one else wearing a Wizards' uniform would score the rest of the night.

Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson put the Sixers ahead to stay with a driving layup with 2:29 left in the game. The victory improved the Sixers' Atlantic Division-leading record to 12-2. The Wizards (4-12) have now lost nine of their last 11 games.

"We cannot allow ourselves to accept this as a moral victory," Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton said.

Hamilton did acknowledge that the team played better than it did the night before, when the lowly Atlanta Hawks beat the Wizards by 27 points at MCI Center.

"It is perplexing to me that we can show so much pride and determination on the road and then be at home and not play with these types of emotions," Hamilton said. "You know that it has to be psychological. We have to overcome this in order for us to be successful and have a successful season. You are supposed to be more focused and more consistent when you are at home."

At home or on the moon, it is hard to beat Philadelphia along with San Antonio the only two teams in the league yet to lose at home especially when Iverson and Ratliff have it going the way they did last night. Yet to score 30 points this season, Iverson finished with a season-high 29. Ratliff mixed in 18 points to go with his nine blocks and eight rebounds.

"It makes a difference when you have a guy back there like Theo," Washington forward Juwan Howard said. "He's playing as well as anybody at the defensive end. He's becoming the same kind of threat that Dikembe [Mutombo] is in Atlanta."

Mitch Richmond led six Washington players in double digits with 26 points. Howard added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Jahidi White also posted a double-double 10 points and 13 rebounds. Richard Hamilton added 10 points off the bench for the Wizards, who made 44.6 percent of their shots and outrebounded Philly 47-43.

Washington got somewhat of a scare late in the fourth quarter when Iverson's elbow caught Strickland in the head and knocked him out of the game in the final 29 seconds. Strickland lay on the floor for at least three minutes and had to be helped from the game.

"I feel OK," Strickland said. "My head hurts but I'm all right." Strickland finished with 12 points and had nine assists.

Although the Sixers struggled late, it was the Wizards who had offensive problems early. Washington made just 8 of 23 shots in the first quarter. And its sluggish offense produced just two baskets in the final 5:16 of the quarter.

Much of this was due to the presence of Ratliff, who blocked four shots in the first 12 minutes of the game.

This led to a lot of layups for the 76ers, which is understandable. However, Philadelphia also got a lot of uncontested jumpers, which is inexcusable but rapidly becoming the norm with this team. This resulted in a 15-3 run that carried over from the first quarter and into the second that gave Philadelphia a 32-19 lead early in the second quarter.

The 76ers cooled somewhat in the second quarter after making 10 of 17 from the floor, and this allowed the struggling Wizards to get back in the game. With Felipe Lopez and Howard leading the way, the Wizards mounted a 15-4 run near the end of the first half that closed what had been a 16-point 76ers' lead with 4:45 left to a five-point game.

However, back-to-back Washington possessions in the final 25.9 of the half resulted in turnovers that turned into a pair of fastbreak baskets that gave the Sixers a 52-43 lead.

Notes Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan said the team, which has a roster spot available after trading Obinna Ekezie and Cherokee Parks to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Tyrone Nesby, will "look to address" the available roster spot. Nesby was not with the team but is expected to join the Wizards as soon as today.

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