Timberwolves 90, Wizards 86
-- It was one of those bungled sequences that always seem to lead to something bad. With a 12-point lead, the Washington Wizards had the ball with just more than 25 seconds left in the third quarter tonight.
The plan was to take the shot clock down to its final ticks before shooting. However the Wizards held on to the ball too long and didn't get a shot off in time, allowing the Minnesota Timberwolves to take possession with 2.5 seconds left. Point guard Troy Hudson, with little resistance, made a three-point shot from near halfcourt to close the gap to nine and give Minnesota needed momentum.
From there, the Wizards collapsed, making 2 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter and scoring 11 points en route to a 90-86 loss before 18,009 at Target Center.
"No question, that gave them a lift," Wizards Coach Doug Collins said of the sequence. "We had the ball up 12 with a chance to push it to 14 and I probably didn't run a very good play and it broke down, and Troy Hudson hit that three. Instead of being up 14 and at the worst 12, we're up nine. That was a huge momentum swing, no question."
Said Wizards guard Michael Jordan: "It was big. It changed the momentum of what was happening. We seemed to be in control and went down and didn't get ourselves in any offense. They came back and hit a shot at the buzzer, and it's a six-point swing. They fed off that momentum from that point forward."
The loss dropped the Wizards to 1-3 and left them stunned, especially since the players on the court during the crucial fourth quarter were veterans, such as Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse, who have a history of being able to close out games.
Point guard Tyronn Lue made the only field goals for Washington in the final period as Jordan and Stackhouse combined to go zero for nine. Jordan had two layups blocked, the first by center Rasho Nesterovic, the second by Kendall Gill.
"Those were two instances where I had good looks," Jordan said. "We've got to be in sync. Everybody's expecting me to take over in the fourth quarter, but a lot of times the defenses are focusing on me and I have to get the ball to the right people. We shot 2 for 22 in the fourth quarter, and you can't finish games like that."
Said Gill of Jordan: "I wish I could see him the way he used to play. It seems like he's holding back a bit. Maybe he's trying to get the younger players involved. He wasn't pressing tonight. He could do more but he's being a big brother to his teammates."
Gill, who scored nine of his team-high 22 points in the final period, hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 2 minutes 45 seconds left after corralling a loose ball. All the Wizards could muster from that point were two free throws by Stackhouse and a layup by Lue at the buzzer.
"The looks were out of broken offense," Stackhouse said. "Shots don't tend to go down out of broken offenses. When you're in good sets and get the ball movement and get it going to the right places, shots tend to fall. You run them out of a broken offense, even though it might be a good look and you've got the room, it's not in the normal rhythm."
Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett grabbed seven of his game-high 16 rebounds and scored four of his 17 points in the fourth. Stackhouse scored a game-high 25 points for Washington. Jordan had 10 points in a season-high 29 minutes, Lue had 13 and Etan Thomas had seven points and five rebounds in his most extensive play of the season.
Brendan Haywood had a team-high eight rebounds, Christian Laettner had seven rebounds and Kwame Brown had seven rebounds and seven points. Point guard Larry Hughes had eight points, six rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes.
Washington shot just 37 percent, the third time in four games, all losses, it failed to reach 40 percent.
Washington's demise came after a stellar third quarter, in which the only flaw was seven turnovers. Despite the miscues, the Wizards managed to shoot 48 percent in the period and stretch their lead from 51-43 at halftime to 14 with 21/2 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Wizards' reserves turned a four-point first-quarter deficit into an eight-point halftime lead by playing one of their most dominant stretches of the season. Of the 30 points Washington scored in the period, 24 came from backups, with Jordan getting just two on a nifty reverse layup early in the quarter.
"We've just got to make plays," Collins said. "The guys played well, we just didn't finish."
Wizards Notes: Collins needs four victories to reach 300 for his career. . . .
Both baskets had to be adjusted before the game as they were each nearly an inch higher than the regulation 10 feet. . . .
Minnesota's Wally Szczerbiak did not play because he is recovering from a dislocated toe.