- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 26, 2003

Moments before Minnesota's Kevin Garnett converted a 3-point play that gave his team its first lead against the Washington Wizards early in the fourth quarter last night, Doug Collins upset with the call that sent Garnett to the line protested to referee Ed Malloy.
"What are you watching," roared the Wizards coach.
Malloy didn't answer. But anyone who saw the Wizards fumble away the game knew exactly what Malloy saw a complete and utter collapse.
Meltdown?
That, too.
The Wizards wilted against the Timberwolves the way a buttercup does in the August sun on the way to their third loss in a row, 97-89. The Timberwolves outscored the Wizards in the second half 54-31.
Earlier, Collins said that he has only seen the Wizards (21-23) pack it in twice this season. Well, if last night's game doesn't fall under that category, then the Timberwolves are just a more athletic, hungrier basketball team than the Wizards.
"There's no explanation for it because we are a better basketball team," Michael Jordan said as the Wizards' locker room emptied in a hurry. "We've shown that we're a better basketball team. We just haven't been able to do it. That's very disappointing this late in the season that we can't put two halves of basketball together."
What makes last night's loss perhaps more ominous is that the Wizards now face a string of games against better teams. Tomorrow they play surprising Phoenix, then are at New Jersey on Wednesday and at Milwaukee on Thursday. They'll return home Saturday to face New Orleans, and by that time the season could be headed sharply downhill.
But that's jumping ahead too quickly. The Wizards' problems, which have brought four defeats in the last five games, are deeper than that.
After playing about as well as they have for one half of basketball, the Wizards' bodies came out of the locker room for the second half, but their hearts, minds and competitive nature left the building in search of Elvis.
Their lack of confidence against the Timberwolves was on display the entire second half. That's when they morphed into a team that went from making 50 percent of its shots to just 34 percent and from winning the rebound battle 20-19 to being clobbered 25-14 on the boards. In short, they were run out of their own building in the second half.
"I don't know what happened," Collins said, "but it wasn't about X's and O's. I mean, this was an important game for us. You're up 15 points; they played last night. You have to get together with your guys and say, 'Hey, we're not going to lose this game.' But it was like somebody drugged us at halftime.
"I mean, we were brilliant in the first half. But for whatever reason, we were dead in the water in the second half. And that can't happen. We couldn't stop them. It seems like we don't have anything to hold us together."
That was evident in the third quarter when the Timberwolves made a ferocious run from which the Wizards never recovered. Down 62-47 with just more than 10 minutes left, Minnesota went on a 20-7 run that appeared to make the Wizards go into a shell. A layup by Kevin Garnett (17 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) gave the Timberwolves a 76-74 lead they never lost.
"So what if they made a run in the third quarter and tied it," Collins said. "So they had a good third quarter there were still 12 minutes to play in our building."
And what a hideous 12 minutes they were. The Timberwolves held the Wizards to just 5-for-17 shooting and limited them to 15 points.
"We've got to dig deep," Jordan said. "As a coach, you've got to maybe change the lineup, change personnel, try to do something to motivate each and every person. Right now Doug is trying to do that. Hopefully, we can come up with some solutions."
Kendall Gill led the Timberwolves (26-18) with 19 points on 8-for-12 shooting. Rasho Nesterovic finished with 13 points, making six of nine. He also grabbed six rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. And Wally Szczerbiak finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Jerry Stackhouse led the Wizards with 21 points, but he had just one field goal and scored just five points in the second half. Larry Hughes added 18 points and grabbed six rebounds overall. Jordan had 17 points, eight rebounds and was 8-for-18 from the floor.
Leading for almost the entire first half, the Wizards pushed their advantage to 52-37 with just more than two minutes left in the second when Tyronn Lue stole the ball from Garnett and hooked up with Kwame Brown for an alley-oop dunk. Not long after, Lue drilled a jumper that ended the first-half scoring and gave the Wizards a 58-43 halftime advantage.
Stackhouse opened the game hot from the floor, attacking the Timberwolves' defense with an array of jumpers and dribble penetrations that produced eight points. The Wizards got off to the kind of start Collins loves, making 50 percent of their shots from the floor while limiting the other team's productivity. Minnesota made just 40 percent from the field.
Garnett, named a starter to the Western Conference All-Star team, missed all but one of his five shots in the first quarter and had just two points. Garnett scored just four before the break and didn't get much help from his teammates.
Lue provided a spark for the Wizards off the bench, pushing the ball up the court and playing pressure defense at the point on his way to eight points.


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