- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 3, 2002

Late in the game last night, with the Washington Wizards holding possession but struggling to create good scoring opportunities against an active and physical New Jersey Nets team they trailed throughout, coach Doug Collins yelled, "Get something good."
Finding his options limited, Michael Jordan jacked up a shot from the wing. It was an air ball.
It was that kind of night for the Wizards, who couldn't dent the Nets' defense often enough and lost 87-79 before a sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.
The Wizards trailed by just three points with six minutes to play, but behind all-everything guard Jason Kidd, who finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, New Jersey went on a 15-5 run over the next 3 minutes. Jordan tried to bring the Wizards back by scoring 14 of his 21 points in the final period, but it wasn't enough.
"Jason Kidd showed why he is talked about as being the MVP of this league," Collins said. "He had a little stretch of three minutes where he changed the game. One spurt by Jason Kidd hurt us."
With Larry Hughes on the bench after his bruised left knee stiffened at halftime it was bruised Wednesday in Toronto the Nets' decisive stretch began with the Wizards' lineup lacking a true point guard.
Kidd took advantage, swiping the ball from Jerry Stackhouse and taking it coast to coast for a 70-63 lead. After Aaron Williams' tip-in, Kidd drove for a layup and then found Lucious Harris for an open jumper, giving New Jersey a 76-65 lead. The Nets made 14 of 15 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to assure the victory.
"In the third quarter, we came out trying to press them a little more, trying to speed the game up, and that helped us," Kidd said. "[The fourth quarter] is the make or break time, and I like to be involved."
The Wizards regarded last night's game as an opportunity to knock off the team that is expected to repeat as Eastern Conference champions and to follow up a 45-point rout of Boston in their last game. They were in position to cut down the Nets after taking a 36-35 halftime lead, but New Jersey forced their hand in the third quarter.
The Nets came with pressure, and the Wizards buckled a bit. They started the quarter 0-for-6 from the field with one turnover, and Hughes struggled to get the Wizards in their offense. New Jersey capitalized, scoring the first eight points of the half to lead 43-36. The Wizards shot 6-for-22 and had three turnovers in the third quarter.
"We weren't in our spots," said Stackhouse, who had 23 points. "We worked on the zone press and attacking it, but we weren't in our spots."
The Wizards (1-2) clawed back to 48-43, but Kenyon Martin scored off Kidd's feed, and Kerry Kittles added a layup plus the foul and a free throw to stretch the lead to 10. On a night when the Wizards always seemed to be trying to rally, the 10-point margin proved too much.
Collins wanted to limit the Nets' transition opportunities above all after New Jersey essentially ran up and down the floor on the fastbreak in handing the Wizards three losses in four games last season. By Collins' count, the Nets outscored the Wizards 81-2 in fastbreak points in those defeats.
What gave the Wizards fits last night, though, was getting to the basket against a rugged New Jersey defense. The Wizards were credited with 28 points in the paint, but most of those came in transition and out of not half-court sets.
"They just scrambled us on offense tonight," said Washington's Kwame Brown, who had four points and 14 rebounds. "I don't think we were really patient, but with the inside presence of Mutombo, it kind of stopped us from wanting to go in there a lot."
Collins came away not satisfied with the loss but encouraged that the Wizards played the Nets (3-0) much closer than they had previously.
"This is a work in progress," Collins said. "I'm trying to get young guys in there and we have a lot of new faces. And, obviously, I wanted to win the game, but there were a lot of good things that happened. This team ran us off the floor last year. Tonight we had a good handle. It was just that one spurt by Jason Kidd that changed the game."
Christian Laettner provided some valuable minutes, scoring 13 points off the bench and, just as importantly, making the extra pass to find an open teammate and pulling down rebounds.
The Wizards took advantage of some sloppy play by the Nets and rallied with defense. Stackhouse stole an inbounds pass and scored to close the gap to 26-23, and Hughes tapped in Bryon Russell's missed layup after a block by Brown. The 8-0 run gave the Wizards their first lead of the game at 29-28 with 3:59 to go before halftime.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide