Nets 87, Wizards 79
The Washington Wizards couldn't get Jason Kidd to lose his temper like he did the night before. As a result, the New Jersey point guard fell one assist short of a triple-double and took over the game in the second half to lead the Nets to an 87-79 victory last night before 21,073 at MCI Center.
Kidd, who was fined $5,000 but not suspended for last night's game after getting ejected for a flagrant elbow to the head of Indiana Pacers guard Jamaal Tinsley on Friday night, coolly scored 18 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and had nine assists to keep the Nets unbeaten (3-0). Washington fell to 1-2.
"Jason Kidd showed tonight why he is talked about as being the MVP of this league," Wizards Coach Doug Collins said. "He came in and had a stretch about three minutes where he just changed the game. . . . He's fearless."
That stretch came after the Wizards pulled from 10 down to 66-63 after a 17-foot jump shot by Christian Laettner with 6 minutes 12 seconds left. In just less than four minutes, the Nets built their lead to 13, scoring on two free throws, four baskets within five feet and two long-range jumpers. Kidd had a hand in five of those plays, scoring six points and handing out two assists.
During part of that stretch, Collins tried a back court of Bryon Russell, Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse -- none of them point guards -- to try to throw the Nets off-balance. The defending Eastern Conference champs were too poised to collapse, even though the Wizards (1-2) battled until the game's final seconds.
"That's the time to make or break and I like to be involved," said Kidd, who had 10 fourth-quarter points. "I enjoy being part of the play in the fourth quarters, making free throws or making a play. We just needed to get some stops and make some baskets to secure the game."
Stackhouse had a game-high 23 points. Jordan had 21 in 27 minutes. They combined to make just 15 of 36 shots. Laettner had 13 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds.
Washington forward Kwame Brown had a game-high 14 rebounds but scored just four points, the first time he hasn't hit double figures this season. Backup small forward Jared Jeffries went scoreless with two rebounds. Bryon Russell has his best game, scoring eight points and recording two steals.
Wizards point guard Larry Hughes, bothered by a bruised left knee, struggled for the second consecutive game, scoring six points and handing out one assist in 25 minutes.
The Nets had five players score in double figures, with forwards Richard Jefferson (13 points, seven rebounds) and Kenyon Martin (12 points, eight rebounds) holding down the interior and Kerry Kittles (15 points) and Lucious Harris (10 points) buoying Kidd in the back court.
"We just didn't handle the pressure properly," said Jordan, who saw his most action of the brief season. "We were prepared for it we just didn't handle it properly. We got within [three] points but we turned the ball over a couple times, they went on a quick spurt and from that point on, we couldn't fight our way back into the game."
The Nets began their rankling of the Wizards immediately after halftime, when their full-court pressure rattled Washington, causing turnovers and disjointed offensive play. After Kenyon Martin's layup kick started an 8-0 at the start of the second half, New Jersey never trailed again.
Their defensive pressure ignited an offense the Wizards managed to keep relatively stagnant in the first half, when Washington took a 36-35 halftime lead. Once the Nets were out in transition, they got easy shots and got to the to foul line frequently.
New Jersey was 27 of 30 from the line for the game, 24 of 26 in the second half and 14 of 15 in the fourth quarter. Washington made 15 of 21 free throws overall, 5 of 6 in the fourth quarter.
The disparity in free throws, especially late in the game, did not sit well with Stackhouse, who has a history of drawing fouls, but feels he hasn't been getting some calls he normally has.
"We should have shot more free throws than that," said Stackhouse, who was 6 of 7 from the line. "That's the respect a team like that has and something I have to earn with this team. That's the frustrating part of it. It's tough because I know the way I attacked them and got bumped, if I go to the free throw line more it's a much closer game. It's tough for me to sit here and swallow. That's the dynamic of who we are and who we're trying to be and who they are and what they've earned."
Wizards Notes: Stackhouse had made his first 19 free throws of the season but missed his 20th, leaving Washington with a 46-41 deficit in the third quarter. . . . Regarding his fine, Kidd said: "The league fined me for the shoving match. It was well-deserved. We have to move on now. It was a game we should put behind us and something we should learn from."