- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 19, 2003

The Washington Wizards are not built to win a war of attrition, which is exactly what this stretch of the season has become. They are not deep enough, not talented enough.
They are not good enough.
Already missing leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse, the Wizards lost guard Larry Hughes midway through last night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers at MCI Center. Not long after, they also lost the game 88-80.
The Wizards played from behind the entire second half, trailed by 14 in the third quarter, and their rally at the end came up short.
Allen Iverson led the Sixers (21-19) with a game-high 26 points on 8-for-24 shooting. Point guard Eric Snow added 19 points and five assists. Keith Van Horn, who always seems to hurt the Wizards no matter what jersey he wears, had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Michael Jordan led Washington (20-20) with 25 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals. Rookie guard Juan Dixon finished with career highs in points (19) and rebounds (five) and also had five assists. Brendan Haywood was the second highest-scoring starter with 10 points, and his four blocked shots led the Wizards, who blocked 10 Philadelphia attempts overall.
The loss dropped the Wizards from a fifth-place tie with the Sixers in the Eastern Conference playoff race to seventh.
The Wizards closed to 80-76 as Tyronn Lue capped a 7-0 run with a 3-pointer that forced the Sixers to call timeout with 3:02 left.
Washington pulled even closer soon after when Jordan found Kwame Brown wide open under the basket for a dunk that made the deficit four points, and Jordan's jumper narrowed it to 82-80 with 1:26 left.
However, Jordan was called for fouls against Philadelphia's Aaron McKie on the Sixers' next two possessions, and McKie converted all four free throws.
Jordan acknowledged to referee Leroy Richardson, the whistle blower in both cases, that he was guilty of the first foul call. Both he and coach Doug Collins had problems with the second one, where it appeared as if Jordan might have caught McKie on his shooting elbow.
"The second time I thought I was in a great defensive situation and I thought I didn't foul," Jordan said. "He made the assumption that I did and that's just one of those plays. I thought I got fouled down in the post earlier. Those are little plays that kill a run, and at that time we're really on a run. Everybody was involved, the defensive intensity was high. That was good, that we didn't fall down and that we did battle back."
Either way, it didn't matter. The Wizards had four attempts at 3-pointers on their next possession and failed to convert. Iverson closed out the scoring when he knocked down a pair of free throws.
Philadelphia held a 77-63 lead with just over eight minutes to play, but Jordan and the Wizards made their move.
Jordan capped a 17-5 run that pulled Washington to within 82-80. And, for a moment, it seemed the Wizards might finally get a win against the Sixers after three losses to Philadelphia earlier in the season. However, the Wizards didn't score again.
"We had our opportunities," said Wizards coach Doug Collins, who also bemoaned his team's 19 turnovers. "In our three losses to them that's been the one glaring thing that has stood out. Tonight we couldn't sustain anything. Larry got sick. It was just one of those nights. It was one of those games where we just couldn't get it together."
Before the game, Hughes was fighting a stomach virus that he believes he caught from one of his two children. The Wizards were already playing without Stackhouse, who has a pulled left groin and is not likely to return until later this week. And right before the start of the second quarter Brown had to have his right hand X-rayed in the third quarter and didn't return until the fourth.
In the 26 minutes Hughes was on the court, he looked nothing like the player who two nights earlier went for 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in a victory over Orlando. Hughes left the game for good in the third quarter after getting four points, five assists and four rebounds.
The Wizards could blame injuries and illness for last night's loss, but they really hurt their chances by shooting a season-low 55 percent (11 of 20) frrm the free-throw line.
"If we all would have played up to the level we're capable of playing at we would have won this game," said Christian Laettner, who struggled all night and finished with three points and four rebounds. "It hurts not having your leading scorer and your starting point guard but we still could have won the game."
Van Horn carried the Sixers to an early lead in the first quarter last night when he pumped in 10 of his 11 first-half points. This helped Philadelphia take a nine-point lead in the quarter, but rookie Dixon single-handedly revived the Wizards with 12 points in the second quarter.
The former Maryland star's 3-pointer with 4:42 left in the half pulled the Wizards even at 34-34. However, Philadelphia outscored the Wizards 13-7 the rest of the way, including an 8-2 stretch at the end of the quarter, to lead 47-41 at halftime.


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