- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

The Washington Wizard did everything they were supposed to last night against the Central Division-leading Detroit Pistons.

They held them to just 24 rebounds while hauling down 37 of their own. They dived after loose balls, and they hustled back on defense against a team that has made hustle its trademark.

But in the end, when backup guard Jon Barry found himself 24 feet away from the basket along the baseline with time expiring, clearly something was amiss.

The Wizards paid for their mistake dearly.

Barry's 3-pointer rattled in with no time left, ending the Wizards' two-game winning streak and dealing them one of their more painful losses of the season 95-92 before an announced sellout crowd of 20,674 at MCI Center.

The victory gave the Pistons (35-24) a four-game sweep of the Wizards in the regular season. Throw in two preseason victories and the Pistons have beaten them six times. The loss prevented the Wizards (29-31) from regaining the .500 mark.

On Barry's game winner, which began on Jerry Stackhouse's inbounds pass with 8.9 seconds to play, the Wizards had one foul to give but did not use it against Damon Jones, who was guarded by Chris Whitney. What seemed like the entire Washington team collapsed on Jones as he penetrated to the basket, including Courtney Alexander, who was on Barry.

Noting this, Jones kicked the ball out to Barry, who sealed the deal with Alexander desperately running out to him.

"We run plays like this in practice," said Barry, who scored 13 of the Pistons' 45 bench points. "I saw Alexander leave me, and I just hit the shot."

Although coach Doug Collins appeared crushed that the Wizards had allowed that type of play to keep them from reaching .500, he felt they had played too well despite losing their eighth game in the last 10 to point any fingers.

"I'm not going to blame that on either Chris Whitney or Courtney Alexander," Collins said. "And I'm not going to complain about a call that we didn't get, because I'll get fined."

That was a reference to the Wizards' last possession. Following a timeout with 36.5 seconds to play and the game tied 92-92, the Wizards got four close shots at the basket but connected on none. On one shot by Popeye Jones, it appeared as if the Pistons' Ben Wallace had interfered with what could have been the game-winning basket.

Whitney, who acknowledged that he probably should have fouled Damon Jones on the final play, did not walk on egg shells when he talked about Washington's last possession.

"They definitely goaltended on Popeye's shot," Whitney said. "This one hurts because we set a goal in one of these next three games, this being the third one, to put us back at .500. Now we have to go on the road and get it."

Don't bet on it happening tonight against Orlando and Tracy McGrady; the Magic have won nine of their last 10 games against the Wizards at TD Waterhouse Centre. And Washington plays much-improved Boston in back-to-back games Sunday and Monday.

"We've got to put this game behind us," Collins said. "Can't dwell on it. We've got a tough game tomorrow and then two against a real good Boston team. You have to let this one go."

Richard Hamilton led the Wizards with 24 points. Alexander, back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench the game before, had his third strong effort in a row with 21 points and a career-high six assists.

However, the Wizards got very little from power forward Christian Laettner and center Jahidi White. Laettner played 31 minutes and totaled five points and six rebounds. White was even worse, going scoreless and grabbing three rebounds in 22 minutes.

Still, the Wizards were very much in the game for most of the night. They never trailed by more than seven points and led by as many as 12 in the first half.


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