Sunday, November 18, 2001

Poor execution late in games is just one of the many problems the Washington Wizards have encountered early this season.
“That’s one of the things that’s killing us,” coach Doug Collins said yesterday following the 2-7 team’s practice. “We’ve put ourselves in position to win a number of games, but we haven’t capitalized on it. There have been stretches where, at both ends, we haven’t done what we’re supposed to, and it’s cost us some games.”
Collins is perhaps the most meticulous coach the Wizards have had in years. Yesterday, Following their sixth loss in a row matching the worst streak ever for a team with Michael Jordan Collins found time to prepare a list of four games in which the Wizards were tied or trailing by a basket in the fourth quarter and ultimately lost due to breakdowns.
For example, the Wizards were tied with Boston 89-89 with 3:55 left only to be outscored 15-6. Against Milwaukee, after rallying from 21 points down, the Wizards tied it 84-84 with 10:01 left only to be outscored 23-14. Against Utah on Friday night, they pulled even at 89-89 only to be outscored 12-3 over the final 4:42.
The Wizards, who are idle until Charlotte comes to MCI Center on Tuesday, also trailed the Knicks 93-91 with 4:05 left in the season opener only to lose 83-82.
Collins noted that all of the opponents pulling out close decisions against his young team were much more experienced. On Friday, the Wizards faced a Utah team with Karl Malone and John Stockton, who have spent a combined 33 years with the Jazz.
The Wizards have been forced to play rookies and young players in the late stretches. Just one game after bemoaning rookie Kwame Brown’s youth and inexperience, Collins had to entrust the rookie with guarding Malone down the stretch.
As a result, Collins spent most of yesterday instructing his team.
“Today was a teaching day. We didn’t do much physically,” Collins said. “I wanted to show them just what I was talking about. I think they gave a great effort against Utah, maybe their best of the season. But it hurts you when it’s late in games and you make mistakes and other teams capitalize on them.”
Collins pointed out that some of those mistakes come from the lack of a true big man who can catch the ball and pass it out of the post, or create some offense when he catches the ball close to the basket. Right now the player the coaching staff thinks will be most competent doing this is rookie center Brendan Haywood, who is on the injured list with strained ligaments in his right thumb.
“We miss Brendan, but we can’t rush him back,” Collins said. “We have to make sure that Brendan is completely healthy. We can’t afford to hurry him back and then have the injury get worse. We’ve got to be able to evaluate what he can do for us this season.”
The Wizards did see the return of a veteran to the lineup but he is not going to give them any relief in the frontcourt. Backup guard Hubert Davis rejoined the team Friday after missing the first eight games with a hamstring injury. Davis was on the court for the entire fourth quarter and scored six points (two 3-pointers) in 13 minutes.
While he was out, Davis had the chance to see exactly what Collins was talking about.
“There’s usually a stretch in any game where execution is going to make a difference in the outcome,” he said. “It’s that simple. The good teams can do it and the bad teams can’t. We’ve got to start doing a better job of that, not just in the fourth quarter but all the way through.”

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