- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

NEW YORK — Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan could live with Allan Houston scorching his team for 39 points. And he could live with the Knicks — a bad team of veterans headed nowhere — playing with enough savvy to send the Wizards to defeat.

But what he could no longer tolerate in the aftermath of the Wizards’ 89-87 loss in front of 17,191 at Madison Square Garden last night was the lack of respect he feels is accorded him and the team by referees.

Citing indiscretions he says happen almost on a nightly basis, Jordan tore into the officiating staff last night.

“We talk with respect and you deserve an honest answer,” Jordan said. “Everybody has got to do their jobs out there. Our guys are working hard. But when you have 18,000 people out there who can see it. Players can see obvious calls.

“You get the same weak excuses every night. ‘I didn’t see it, I didn’t see it.’ You have three guys who are supposed to do their jobs. … You get young teams that don’t have marquee players and they don’t get the calls and that’s how it goes.”

Larry Hughes, who led the Wizards (7-16) with 19 points, also supported Jordan.

“I’ve been fed up,” said Hughes, in the wake of the Wizards’ fourth straight loss. “I don’t think it’s right. I see what’s going on. I’m trying to make plays. We don’t have a lot of room for errors. When certain things don’t go our way, that really hurts us.”

Reserve forward Christian Laettner said the team’s bad record is more or less the byproduct of their poor play.

“We’re not losing games because of the refs,” said Laettner, who scored just two points in seven minutes. “I agree with Eddie that we’re playing hard and not getting the calls. But we have to play the right way to the end. We lost an 11-point lead tonight.”

Laettner was referring to the Wizards’ 54-43 advantage with slightly more than five minutes to play in the third quarter.

Trailing 43-41 after Houston sank a 3-pointer, the Wizards scored the game’s next 13 points. But with Houston scoring 12 of his points in the quarter, Washington was unable to hold off the Knicks (9-16). Instead, the Knicks went ahead on a pair of Shandon Anderson free throws with 49.9 seconds to play in the quarter.

Houston took over in the fourth quarter.

With 6-foot-11 Jared Jeffries (seven points, season-high 10 rebounds) in his face, Houston, who made 12 of 19 shots from the floor, rose up to break the 15th and final tie of the night, drilling a 22-footer with 18.1 seconds left.

On the play, Jeffries appeared to step back, providing Houston with just enough room to see the basket clearly.

Following a Washington timeout, Hughes was called for an offensive foul. Kurt Thomas and Charlie Ward combined to hit three of four free throws in the final 14.5 seconds to extend the Knicks’ lead to 89-84.

As much as the officiating might have gotten under Jordan’s skin, the bottom line, like Laettner said, is the Wizards blew a lead and let the Knicks back in the game.

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