- The Washington Times - Friday, November 30, 2001

PHILADELPHIA Despite the Washington Wizards' 4-10 record, only once has coach Doug Collins believed his team had no chance at victory. Oddly enough, it was against the horrid Cleveland Cavaliers.

That's because the Wizards not just in this season but over the years tend to suffer letdowns after big wins.

After the Wizards ended an eight-game losing streak Saturday with an 88-84 overtime victory over the visiting Boston Celtics, they followed with a 95-74 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday that prompted Michael Jordan to say, "We stink."

"I knew we weren't ready to play at the start of the game," Collins said. "I mean, I've been around it long enough. I watched our guys walk out to warm up, and I told our coaches we'll be down by 20 points before you can blink. You would have thought that we had just won a seven-game series the way they played."

Collins and the Wizards hope to avoid a repeat of the same symptoms tonight when they play a bad Miami team. The Wizards are coming off their biggest win of the season Wednesday, having stunned the defending Eastern Conference champion 76ers 94-87 in front of a shocked First Union Center crowd of 20,931. A win tonight would mark only the second time this season the Wizards have won back-to-back games.

After the Philadelphia victory in which he had 30 points, seven assists, six rebounds and five steals Jordan emphasized that the Wizards simply aren't good enough to pick and choose when they will play hard.

"It's important to come out and play every night," Jordan said. "It doesn't matter if it's Cleveland or Philly. The way we are going to be able to turn this thing around is if we give the effort every night. Some nights you might have the talent or things might go your way, but the effort should be there every single night. We didn't have this type of effort in Cleveland. If so, I think the game would have been a little bit different.

"We gave a great effort against Boston, and then going to Cleveland we nullified that game, that effort. The thing that I don't like about those situations is that when we have one win we tend to relax and feel like we've accomplished something, and we haven't really."

Collins hopes the win over Philadelphia will inspire the team to come out and get its fifth win of the season rather than roll over for another bad team. After the Wizards beat the Celtics, Jordan noted that the locker room was filled with music for the first time in weeks. Collins saw the same type of exuberance in the locker room following the win over Philly. However, he didn't seem to think that there was a negative side to it this time.

"Our guys really felt good about themselves after the game," Collins said. "We talked about what it felt like, and there's no reason why we can't come out and give that kind of effort every night."

They didn't against Cleveland. The Wizards had their worst shooting night (33.7 percent) of the season. And perhaps even more alarming, they had just three fastbreak points.

One player the Wizards hope will continue to contribute tonight is reserve point guard Tyronn Lue. Acquired this summer as a free agent, Lue, activated for the Philadelphia game, showed his value to the Wizards for the first time this season, finishing with nine points and seven assists in 24 minutes.

Lue also demonstrated he would not back down from Philadelphia's Allen Iverson. The two exchanged words for most of Lue's 24 minutes.

"Ty's a tough little guy, and he's a competitor," Collins said. "What Ty brings is an energy. We've been sort of lifeless as a team. Allen Iverson still got 40 points, which shows you what a great player Allen Iverson is."

Against Philadelphia Lue played the way the Wizards hoped when they signed him to a two-year, $2.57-million deal, not the player who is shooting 36.8 percent from the floor.

"My confidence was a little shaken because I wasn't playing the way I'm capable of playing," Lue said. "Tonight I got out in transition, we ran some pick-and-rolls and that's the way I like to play."

Collins also hopes that rookie center Brendan Haywood, impressive in his first two games since being activated, can continue to show improvement. Haywood was mostly responsible for limiting Philadelphia's All-Star center Dikembe Mutombo to six points and five rebounds in 33 minutes. Haywood missed the first 12 games with a torn ligament in his left thumb.

"Brendan gives us a totally different dimension," Collins said of the team's 7-footer. "I was waiting to see what he would do for us when he started to get healthy."


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