Not long before the start of last night’s game against the San Antonio Spurs, Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins wondered aloud what it would be like to earn a big win in front of a raucous home crowd.
Now he knows.
“There’s no greater feeling in sports than beating a good team, playing against a good team, playing hard and getting a win,” Collins said after the Wizards upended the Spurs 105-103 at MCI Center. “I wanted our guys to feel that feeling. When you feel that feeling then you want more of it. And I hope that’s what’s going to happen to us in the second half of the season.”
Collins has spent much of the season wondering aloud why the Wizards have not shown a killer instinct late in games. But when that trait was needed most in last night’s game, Washington delivered.
After the Spurs whittled a 10-point deficit to 96-91, Christian Laettner drilled a clutch 17-foot baseline jumper.
Not long before that, Larry Hughes swished a 20 footer that helped keep the charging Spurs at bay.
And that is why, after diving for a lose ball with 22.4 seconds left in the game, Jerry Stackhouse, who led the Wizards with 25 points, had every reason to pump his fist before he sank a pair of free throws to give the Wizards a 103-95 lead.
The victory improved the Wizards’ to 4-15 against teams with winning records, and 14-17 overall.
“It’s important for us to win any game,” Stackhouse said. “That’s a great team with a winning record and we haven’t had a lot of success against teams with wining records. We’ve got one now. Hopefully we can take this into the new year and it’s something we can build on and keep going.”
Stackhouse was 11-for-13 from the free throw line and also had seven assists. Hughes added 22 points, and Michael Jordan finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
The Wizards also received a boost from their bench, which provided 28 points. Etan Thomas led the reserves with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Wizards, a 77-percent free throw shooting team, went to the foul line often and were successful, making 33 of 40 free throws (82.5 percent), including 15 of 19 in fourth quarter.
Tim Duncan, the reigning league MVP, finished with a game-high 35 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds. However, Duncan committed seven of the Spurs’ 18 turnovers. David Robinson, making his final appearance at MCI Center, finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Duncan also was whistled for a technical foul in the third quarter. Moments later Spurs starting guard Stephen Jackson was tossed from the game when he slapped an officials hand.
“We played pretty sloppy, at least turnovers-wise,” Spurs coach Gregg Poppovich said. “And that’s not a great combination on the road.”
It has been a rough four-game road trip for the Spurs, who headed back to San Antonio after the game. The Spurs also lost to New York and Chicago as well as the Wizards in three of their last four games.
And they didn’t help their cause last night turning the ball over 18 times, including five in the fourth quarter.
The Spurs, who trailed after Tyronn Lue hit a running jumper which gave the Wizards a 40-39 lead with 5:56 left in the first half, went ahead 71-69 on a pair of Malik Rose free throws late in the third quarter.
However, the Wizards recaptured the lead on a pair of Thomas free throws and a jumper from Stackhouse with 5.7 seconds left in the quarter that made it 73-71.
Now the job is to continue the momentum in Chicago when they face the Bulls tomorow.
“We have to come out and play well there,” Jordan said. “We can’t go out there and think they are bottom dwellers and expect to win because they’re playing pretty good right now.”