- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2001


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. The traveling cure-all known as the Washington Wizards paid a visit to the Jersey swamps last night, and the New Jersey Nets are a better team for it.

In search of just their seventh home win this season, the Nets made 30 of 34 free throws and the Wizards scored just 12 points in the fourth quarter as New Jersey won 108-89 before 10,075 at Continental Airlines Arena.

Forward Keith Van Horn led the Nets (13-26) with a season-high 27 points. He also pulled down 10 rebounds and handed out a career-high five assists for the Nets. Stephon Marbury added 22 points and seven assists.

Juwan Howard finished with a double double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Richard Hamilton added 18 points and Chris Whitney added 14 for the Wizards, who made 44.7 percent of their shots (34 of 76). The Nets shot 45.5 percent (35-for-77) from the field.

The loss was the eighth in a row for the Wizards (7-33), who have lost 23 of 26 games dating back to Nov. 25. The defeat also positioned the Wizards to match this season's streak of nine losses when they play at Toronto tomorrow.

Making matters worse if that is possible Tyrone Nesby, who rejoined the team yesterday for the first time since he and coach Leonard Hamilton had a shouting match on Monday, lit the fuse of controversy once again.

Angered over his benching, Nesby, who entered the game for the first time with 41 seconds left in the first quarter and played 27 minutes overall, expressed his displeasure at being benched.

"It was kind of hard sitting on the bench, itching trying to get in, and you see guys going in and you keep wondering when you're going to get in," said Nesby, who finished with nine points. "I was caught off guard. I'm kind of upset about that tonight. [Hamilton] told me he was going to drop everything and that I was still going to be in the starting lineup."

Last night the Wizards started Michael Smith at power forward and moved Juwan Howard to small forward. The Wizards also started Richard Hamilton at shooting guard.

Nesby, who did not practice with the team Tuesday and instead had a meeting with league officials in New York, also questioned Hamilton's shuffling of the roster.

"This lineup has been switched up so many times," Nesby said. "You can't just keep switching lineup after lineup. Eventually, you are going to have to stick with somebody. By now, if you don't know who needs to be in what position you'll never know."

Hamilton, who said he was through discussing this with Nesby, paid little attention to the latest assault on his authority.

"He's being treated just like anybody else on this team," Hamilton said. "I'm not going to go into that. What he said, that speaks for itself. For me, it's over."

Hamilton took immediate advantage of his switch to the starting lineup, shooting 4-for-7 in the first quarter for 10 points. However, the Nets balanced this with 13-for-13 shooting from the line and led 28-25. Van Horn paced the Nets with 11 points in the quarter.

Van Horn, appearing in just his seventh game this season after he fractured his left fibula in the preseason, looked to be in midseason form. He added 12 points in the second quarter and by halftime had already tied his career high of five assists, with 23 points and seven rebounds.

Van Horn's finger roll on a fastbreak jump-started the Nets in the final 5:16 of the first half. It gave the Nets a 44-42 lead and was the beginning of a 10-1 run that pushed New Jersey's lead to 53-43 with 3:17 to play in the half.

Shortly thereafter, following a basket from Hamilton, Marbury and Van Horn answered with back-to-back 3 pointers, and Marbury's 14-footer gave New Jersey its biggest lead of the half at 63-46.

The Nets, losers of four of their last five games and generally regarded as a team almost as bad as Washington, built a 19-point lead early in the third quarter. However, the Wizards closed the quarter on a 11-4 run that pulled them within 86-77 after three quarters.

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