- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2001


The Washington Wizards nailed down their 61st loss of the season and closed in on a dubious piece of history yesterday, falling to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers 106-98 at MCI Center.

The latest loss leaves the Wizards (19-61) one defeat from tying the franchise record set by the Chicago Packers, who finished the 1961-62 season with an 18-62 record. The franchise later moved to Baltimore, where it was renamed the Bullets, then to Washington, where it eventually became the Wizards.

The Wizards must win their final two games just to tie the team's worst record since the franchise moved to Washington in 1973. The 1994-95 Bullets finished 21-61.

Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton, who has seen much go awry this season, said the record has not crossed his mind.

"I haven't even thought about that. The only thing I'm concerned about is trying to prepare," Hamilton said. "I want to win every game. I wish we could have won 62 games. The only thing I can be concerned about is whether or not we are going to be prepared for the next game."

The Wizards close the season with games at Atlanta tomorrow and at home against the Raptors on Wednesday.

The lone bright spot for the Wizards yesterday was the performance of rookie swingman Courtney Alexander, who led all scorers with a career-high 30 points. Alexander, who joined the Wizards at the Feb. 22 trade deadline, said that the loss total is of no consequence right now.

"Sixty-one losses, that's a whole lot of losses. But whether we go into the summer having 61 or 63, it really doesn't matter," Alexander said. "Obviously you don't want to be a part of setting a bad record. I think it would definitely be good to pull out these last two games just to end the season on a positive note."

In losing for the 13th time in their last 16 games, the Wizards didn't seem particularly well prepared for anything. Facing a Cleveland (29-51) team that has been making vacation plans for almost as long as the Wizards, Washington was beaten in areas in which it normally is respectable.

With starting center Jahidi White (strained right Achilles' tendon) out of the lineup, the Wizards had no presence inside. This allowed the Cavs losers of eight of their past 10 before yesterday to outscore the Wizards 54-22 in the paint. The Cavs also decisively won the rebounding battle (44-36).

"Without Jahidi in the lineup we just don't have that same physical presence that we're used to having," Hamilton said.

More important was the premature exit of guard Richard Hamilton. Hamilton was tossed by official Tim Donaghy with 10 minutes left in the game after a play on which Hamilton thought he was fouled by Cleveland's hulking Robert Traylor. At the time of the ejection, Hamilton's second of the season, the Wizards trailed 83-72.

"I fell on the ground, you know," said Hamilton, at least 100 pounds lighter than the 300-plus Traylor. "I don't know how I ended up there. I just got up. I really can't explain it."

All told, the Wizards' frustrating play resulted in a season-high five technical fouls. Richard Hamilton picked up two, and Leonard Hamilton, Popeye Jones and Tyrone Nesby each had one.

"Obviously the frustration has set in when a guy like Popeye Jones, who usually doesn't complain about anything, and Rip, who is as mild as a guy can be, can allow themselves to get frustrated under those circumstances," Leonard Hamilton said. "Mentally it affects in a negative way. This is one of those frustrating losses that really bothers you."

The loss came just two days after the Wizards derailed the playoff-bound Orlando Magic, a game in which Tracy McGrady matched Antoine Walker's MCI Center scoring record of 49 points.

The Cavs physically manhandled the Wizards. Point guard Andre Miller led five Cleveland players in double-figure scoring with 20 points and added eight assists. Traylor made seven of nine shots from the field and finished with 17 points and a season-high six blocks. Journeyman forward Clarence Weatherspoon added 15 points and 12 rebounds. The Cavs shot 50 percent from the field.

Christian Laettner scored 18 for the Wizards, who shot 46 percent from the field and made 26 of 29 free throws. Laron Profit, despite making just one of five shots from the field, finished with 14 points. Profit was 12-for-12 from the free throw line.

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