- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 29, 2002

Although it was just the 29th game of their season, the Washington Wizards needed the result they got last night against the Atlanta Hawks, and no one needed it any more than Jerry Stackhouse.
Stackhouse played most of the Wizards' 84-76 win over the Hawks with a smile on his face on his way to a game-high 29 points. More important, Stackhouse took command of the game in the fourth quarter when he exploited the Hawks' zone defense for 15 of the Wizards' 25 points.
"Our guys needed that feeling of winning again," Wizards coach Doug Collins said of the victory that ended Washington's three-game losing streak. "It's amazing when you lose two or three games and that feeling of losing comes over you and you've got to get it out of your system.
"I just tried to give the team some passion tonight. I just tried to give them a little fire."
The Wizards took a 59-55 lead into the fourth quarter and Stackhouse had a series of highlight reel plays at critical times.
Early in the final period he broke free for a tomahawk dunk along the baseline that ignited the sleepy MCI Center and gave the Wizards a 62-59 lead with 7:10 to play.
However, Stackhouse's most important moments came later on back-to-back plays. After he blocked a shot by Glenn Robinson, Stackhouse drilled a 21-foot jumper at the other end to give the Wizards a 78-69 lead with 2:11 left.
Stackhouse even grabbed a crucial rebound and sank a pair of free throws in the final minute after the Hawks failed to score a basket on a possession that could have closed the lead to 80-76 with just under a minute to play.
Stackhouse, who was clearly miffed following Thursday's loss to Detroit he got just one shot in the fourth quarter and felt that he was not utilized was subdued after the Wizards' victory, but happy to get the win, which was by no means a thing of beauty.
"We won the game and that's all that matters," said Stackhouse, who also had six assists and five rebounds. "It doesn't matter how we do it. There are a lot of ugly wins in the NBA and this happened to be one of them. We did what it took when we had to. Hopefully we can build off of this one."
If that is the case, the foundation could have some cracks in it. Last night's win was not the type that can lift a team to a lofty stature.
Washington won mainly because the Hawks are horrible away from Philips Arena, having lost nine consecutive road games since they beat the Lakers on Nov. 12. The Wizards (13-16) shot just 40 percent from the floor, but Atlanta was even worse (38 percent).
The Hawks' poor performances away from home probably explained why Jason Terry, who led Atlanta with 22 points, was ready to claim a moral victory for his 12-17 team.
"I am proud of us, we hung in there and kept fighting after an emotional victory last night," said Terry of his team's victory over San Antonio. "We came back tonight and held them to 80 points, so we are on our way defensively."
That type of talk can't sit too well with new coach Terry Stotts, who replaced the fired Lon Kruger on Thursday.
Stackhouse wasn't the only Wizard to put up solid numbers. Larry Hughes had 11 points and Michael Jordan added 10 while reserve guard Tyronn Lue came off the bench to score 13 points.
Meanwhile, Atlanta got 18 points from Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and Robinson, who was just five of 20 from the floor, finished with 11.
Washington got off to a great start and led 15-2 early in the first quarter. During that stretch, the Hawks made their first shot and then proceeded to miss 12 straight attempts.
Things went so well for the Wizards that they were able to cover their own mistakes. Most notably, after Stackhouse missed a breakaway dunk, he stole the ball on the Hawks' next possession and coasted in, laughing, for an emphatic slam.
"That start was crucial to us," Collins said. "We got out the gate and set a tone. They got back into it but when we needed to respond, we did."


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