- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2001


Richard Hamilton could be forgiven for his errant, over-the-head pass to no one in particular late in the fourth quarter last night. The pass, which even Hamilton smiled about at the time, resulted in a flubbed fast break opportunity for the Pistons.
That's because Hamilton had played the finest basketball of his career for the previous 45 minutes. He erupted for a career-high 40 points to carry the shorthanded Wizards to a 103-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons before 13,822 at MCI Center.
Hamilton's performance one of the brightest moments this season for a 16-48 team that is committed to rebuilding. Hamilton figures to be a prominent player in that process. His showing, which carried Washington to its third win in four games, was highly encouraging.
It even had some historical value to it.
Hamilton, who shot 15-for-23 from the field, had the biggest night by a Wizard since Tracy Murray dropped 50 on the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 10, 1998.
With Mitch Richmond out, Rod Strickland waived and Juwan Howard in Dallas, the second-year guard cherished the opportunity to light up Detroit (24-40).
"That's the situation I wanted from the get-go," Hamilton said. "But it was a situation where you have to wait, be patient and learn the game and things like that. I didn't sit back and huff and puff about it. I've learned a lot from Mitch, and I try to go out and do a lot of the things I learned from him and just do them."
Hamilton was not by himself in terms of punishing the Pistons.
Washington shot 52.8 percent from the field and limited the Pistons to just 41.6 percent shooting. The Wizards got a career-high 16 rebounds from center Jahidi White as they pounded the Pistons 53-31 on the boards. With Richmond out with an inflamed knee, Washington got a 15-point effort from rookie Courtney Alexander. Point guard Hubert Davis added 15 points, forward Michael Smith pulled down 14 rebounds, and Christian Laettner came off the bench for 11 points and eight rebounds.
But it was the play of Hamilton, who outplayed Detroit's Jerry Stackhouse (38 points), that made the difference for the Wizards.
"I think the way Rip played is the way he knows he can play," White said. "He was confident. He's always been confident about his shot and his ability to score. Tonight we were short with Mitch being out. He stepped it up big time for us."
Wizards coach Leonard Hamilton agreed.
"He had a very good game," Hamilton said. "He got going early and he did it with drives to the basket and with jump shots. We need him to be like that on some nights. It's great when he steps it up like that. Tonight he did."
The Wizards pretty much led the game from start to finish. And perhaps it was fitting that when they took the lead for good it was on Hamilton's 15-footer with 7:38 left in the second quarter. That gave the Wizards a 31-30 lead.
The Wizards asserted early dominance in the second quarter when they opened the second quarter on a 22-8 run. During this stretch, the Wizards got points from a variety of sources, including little-used guard Laron Profit.
Profit came off the bench in the second quarter and immediately contributed. He nailed back-to-back baskets a 3-pointer and an alley-oop dunk from Hamilton that pushed the lead to 45-33. Profit finished with a career-high seven points.
The Wizards dominated play in the second quarter. Not only did they hold the Pistons without a basket for 6:10 of the period, but the 14 points the Pistons scored were the fewest the Wizards have allowed in the second quarter this season.
The Wizards blistered the nets in the first half, making almost 63 percent from the field while limiting the Pistons to just 35 percent shooting. Had it not been for Stackhouse's 19 first-half points, the Wizards' lead at halftime might have been larger than 50-39

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