- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

TORONTO Doug Collins took his time putting in the Washington Wizards' offensive sets this preseason, allowing several new players to jell on their own offensively while focusing on defense.

Maybe he should have spent more time with the offense, although the emphasis on defense in training camp and preseason probably saved the Wizards from getting blown out.

The Wizards shot 29.6 percent from the field en route on a woeful night offensively in their season opener, a 74-68 loss to the Toronto Raptors before 20,165, a regular-season record at Air Canada Centre. Washington tied a franchise record low for field goals in a game with 24. The point total was its third lowest.

After scoring just nine points in the third quarter, the Wizards entered the fourth with 45, well within reach of lowering the franchise's record low of 66. The Wizards threatened the Raptors' lead only in the final minute but managed to score enough Jerry Stackhouse's two free throws with 10.1 seconds to go did it to avoid an ignominious opening to what has been a highly anticipated season.

"The one thing I never felt like we would be is a team that had trouble scoring," Collins said. "But tonight we had no zip. Offensively, we were terrible."

Somehow, though, the Wizards stayed in it and trailed just 72-65 before Michael Jordan threw away a pass with 1:11 to go. Jordan came off the bench to play 25 minutes and score just eight points on 4-for-14 shooting. The defining moment of his evening came when he clanked a dunk off the iron on a breakaway late in the fourth quarter.

"Early on, everybody was fumbling the ball," complained Jordan, who said his once-troublesome right knee felt fine. "We had opportunities to take some good shots. It was just one of those games that was pretty ugly on both sides."

In the second half, Jordan went 0-for-6 from the field and did not score. He failed to score in double figures only five times last season.

Second-year man Kwame Brown turned in one of the few quality performances of the night for the Wizards, recording career highs with 18 rebounds and five blocked shots to go with his 12 points. He shot just 4-for-12 from the field but demonstrated his potential for being a force down low.

"On a lot of the rebounds, I was just in the right place at the right time, but I have to work on finishing," Brown said. "Even though it was a pretty good personal effort, I have to finish a lot more shots around the basket. It goes down in the book as a double-double, but it also goes down as a loss."

The Wizards opened 2-for-11 from the field and missed 18 of their first 23 attempts before Stackhouse hit a 3-pointer to cut their deficit to 20-14 at the end of the first period. It got worse in the second, when the Wizards continued to misfire or turn the ball over and yielded transition opportunities. Morris Peterson (game-high 20 points) took advantage, scoring seven straight points to give the Raptors a 29-16 lead.

The Wizards missed 11 consecutive field goals after Jordan scored on the Wizards' first possession of the second quarter as the Raptors streaked to a 34-16 advantage. When Stackhouse (team-high 19 points) finally made a bank shot with 5:26 left before halftime, the Wizards had gone more than six minutes without a field goal and were shooting 19.4 percent (7-for-36).

With their nationally televised season opener heading south quickly, the Wizards got back in it behind Brown and Jordan. The Wizards trailed by 14 with 4:25 left in the second quarter before Brown, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds in the first half, and Jordan scored six points apiece to leave the visitors trailing by 44-36 at the break, a respectable margin considering their shooting woes.

But the third quarter brought more of the same unsightly basketball and stagnant offense. Trailing 49-43 with 7:47 left in the third, the Wizards were scoreless for the next 6:08 as Toronto went on an 8-0 run. Washington didn't get as close as six again until late in the fourth quarter.

The Wizards' defense did a number on the Raptors, forcing 20 turnovers and holding them to 35.5 percent shooting overall and 30 points in the second half, but the offensive woes were just too much to overcome. They'll attempt to rectify matters tonight in their home opener against Boston.

"I felt this coming the last couple days in practice," Collins said. "I've just felt we've been very careless, and that's an area we're really going to have to clean up. We just didn't get into anything crisply at all on offense."

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