- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2001

WIZARDS 94, HAWKS 90

As the Washington Wizards gathered on the bench with about three minutes left in yesterday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, center Jahidi White, never a guy much for words, had a few for his teammates and anyone else within earshot.
"This is our game. We're gonna win this one," said White, who added a few expletives for emphasis. "This is our game."
Turns out White was right. When play resumed Washington, as it did throughout most of the second half, played well enough to hold on for a 94-90 win over the Hawks at MCI Center.
The Wizards (8-34) ended their nine-game losing streak, avoiding the ignominy of tying the second-longest such streak in franchise history. It was Washington's first victory since beating Minnesota on Jan. 2.
The victory also came two days after an uninspired performance at Toronto that made Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton acknowledge for the first time that the mounting losses were taking a toll on the team's psyche. Yesterday they were anything but uninspired, rallying from an 11-point deficit in the first half.
"It feels great to get the monkey off your back," said Wizards guard Richard Hamilton, who made his fourth start of the season. "It just makes your whole day better. You can go home and relax, turn on the TV and watch ESPN and things like that."
Hamilton led the Wizards with 29 points. Juwan Howard continued to play well, with 25 points on 11-for-21 shooting. Chris Whitney, playing on bad ankles that twice forced him out of the game, scored 19 points and handed out nine assists. And White, cautiously coming back from a sprained left knee, posted a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
"Richard pretty much had his way," Atlanta coach Lon Kruger said. "He and Howard both had good days. They took advantage of us not being able to go at them. We had an opportunity to do it, to widen the lead, and we didn't. Tonight they just wanted it more than us."
Atlanta, which beat the Wizards by 27 points earlier this year at MCI Center, fell to 14-25.
In a rare turn of events, the Wizards simply outplayed the Hawks in the second half. After allowing Atlanta to make 52 percent of its shots from the field in the first half, Washington tightened up its defense, holding the Hawks to just 16-for-43 in the second half.
"I thought our guys did a nice job defensively in the second half," Leonard Hamilton said. "In the first half they made a lot of baskets in transition after we had missed easy opportunities. I thought we finished our shots a little better in the second half and executed real well. But more than anything else we did a good job of keeping them in front of us."
Trailing for most of the game, the Wizards tied the game at 64-64 at the end of the third quarter. They took the lead for good on Whitney's 3-pointer with 8:42 left in the game.
The Wizards were able to stave off Atlanta because they hit their free throws down the stretch. Washington missed just one in the fourth quarter. Whitney was 6-for-6 from the line in the fourth, and Hamilton hit all four of his free throws.
But Leonard Hamilton did not want to place too much emphasis on the victory. After all, before yesterday's win the Wizards had dropped 24 of 27 games, fashioning a six-game losing streak and two nine-game losing streaks.
"What we've got to do is try to enjoy this victory and not try to make a whole lot of declarations and statements and keep it in perspective that we won one game in a row," Leonard Hamilton said. "In order for us to enjoy it and for it to be meaningful we need to come back and play another good game Tuesday night [against Charlotte]."


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