- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

Some teams just don't match up well against other teams in the NBA. However, after watching the Washington Wizards conduct their second glorified practice against the Denver Nuggets within a week, it's hard to believe this horrible bunch could look good against anyone.
Actually, it's almost hard to comprehend that they've won 21 games this season. Last night the Nuggets were at their worst, falling behind by 32 points as the Wizards got back on the winning track with an easy 103-87 victory at MCI Center.
Most importantly the victory, coupled with Detroit's 96-77 victory over Indiana, allowed the Wizards (33-38) to close to within 2 games of the Pacers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 11 games left in the season.
"Any time we can get a little help from those teams that we are chasing it's great," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "What we've got to do is win and hope that we get a little help along the way. That is good for us."
However, last night's victory pretty much completes the soft portion of the Wizards' remaining schedule. Of the Wizards' final 11 opponents, beginning with Friday's home game against Milwaukee, nine have a .500 record or better.
Guard Chris Whitney had his most productive offensive game of the year, scoring a season-high 22 points and handing out a game-high seven assists. Richard Hamilton also netted 22 points. Etan Thomas came off the bench to notch a career-high 13 points and grab seven rebounds.
"Any win is big for us now because we are fighting for a playoff spot," Whitney said. "We played great defense. This was one of those games that we knew we had to win and we came out and played that way tonight."
Forward Donnell Harvey came off the Denver bench to lead the Nuggets with 18 points, 12 in the fourth quarter. Former Washington forward Juwan Howard added 17 points despite having boos showered on him all night. Denver fell to 21-48.
When the Wizards played the Nuggets last week at Pepsi Center in Denver, Washington led by as many as 36 points and went on to win by its largest margin, 107-75, of the season.
Howard anticipated the rude treatment here.
"It wasn't a surprise," Howard said. "I expected that from the crowd here. If they booed me when I was playing for them then they definitely are going to boo me when I'm on the opposing team."
A must-win game for Washington, this one was over by halftime. It was such a blowout that the most entertaining aspect of the night was the constant trash-talk between Michael Jordan (nine points) and Denver reserve Voshon Lenard (16). Jordan, who played 20 minutes, and Lenard went at it most of the night.
Jordan said it went back to their matchups when Lenard played for Miami and Jordan was a Bull.
"Just old, reminiscing conversations," Jordan said with a smile. "We had some battles. Well, they were battles on his side, domination on my side. He got me fired up. He blocked my shot and started talking trash. I was just trying to run and get loose. I got loose with a couple words. I didn't have to run up and down the court."
The Wizards played the first half with a type of urgency they didn't display over the weekend in their crucial loss at Toronto.
The Wizards forced the listless Nuggets into committing 15 turnovers in the first half alone and 21 in the game, which Washington converted into 28 points. And the 61 points they scored in the first half matched their season-high.
When the Wizards beat Denver last week, they put them away with a 21-2 run. Last night, Washington used a 20-7 run in the second quarter that put the Wizards up 49-23 with just more than four minutes left in the half.
On the way to building their big lead, the Wizards, not exactly known as one of the more athletic teams in the NBA, gave the sellout crowd some things to cheer about, and most of them were dunks.
Reserve Tyrone Nesby provided the best one when he picked up a lose ball and soared in for a one-handed jam. Courtney Alexander (14 points) provided a pair, catching an alley oop and also exploding for a one-hander.
Even rookie Kwame Brown got into the show. Matched up with former University of Florida forward Harvey he and Brown almost were teammates Brown spun around, rose and jammed hard over Harvey.
Brown finished with eight points and five rebounds.


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