Hornets 87, Wizards 75
Washington Wizards Coach Doug Collins was wary how his team would perform against the New Orleans Hornets tonight as it has played just three times and practiced twice since the all-star break. The recent snowstorm that blanketed the D.C. area postponed Monday's home game against Toronto and forced the cancellation of a much-needed practice.
His concerns were well warranted as the Wizards fell behind by 15 in the first quarter. However, in the second and third periods, Washington showed resilience and poise, tying the game three times and staying within striking range.
Then things came undone. The Wizards' defense was woeful and they managed just 15 points in the final period to fall, 87-75, to the Hornets before a sellout crowd of 18,522 at New Orleans Arena.
"My biggest concern was our ability to have any kind of edge at all," Collins said. "We did fight back. . . . The game was in the balance and we let them score six of the last seven possessions. We have not been able to get defensive stops when we needed them this year."
The loss was Washington's third in four games as the Wizards (25-28) dropped to 1-7 in their last eight road games and 9-28 in games in which they don't score 100 points. The Hornets improved to 29-27.
New Orleans scored 22 fourth-quarter points, with Jamal Mashburn (game-high 24 points) scoring nine in the final five minutes. Washington was as close as 73-71 with just more than six minutes left but Mashburn's run, which included a three-pointer, ended with the Hornets up by 11 with about a minute remaining.
"We couldn't stop their offensive thrust at certain times," said Michael Jordan, who led the Wizards with 20 points. "Even when we had them take tough shots, they made them. The defense couldn't stand up to the challenge."
Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse, in his first game back after missing five games with a pulled left groin, added 15 points in a team-high 40 minutes. Forward Kwame Brown scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a reserve role. Backup guard Larry Hughes added 11 points but sprained his right ankle in the fourth quarter and is questionable for Friday's game against visiting New Jersey.
The Wizards' reserves keyed runs in the second and third quarter to get Washington into the flow of things, but three big baskets by New Orleans backup guard Robert Pack stunned Washington. So did a sequence just before halftime that stiff-armed the momentum the Wizards generated in the second quarter.
Down 41-40 with less than two seconds left, Hughes -- the catalyst to the Wizards' second-quarter push -- fouled Wesley on a three-point attempt. Wesley made the final two foul shots to put New Orleans up by three.
On the inbounds play, Jordan's pass intended for Hughes was intercepted by George Lynch, who knocked down a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give New Orleans a 46-40 halftime lead.
"We mismanaged the clock horribly at the end of the half," Collins said.
In the third quarter, after Washington pulled to 63-60 on a layup by Stackhouse, Pack made an 18-footer at the horn to put New Orleans up by five. He buried two more early in the fourth to give the Hornets a 69-62 lead. The Wizards were miffed.
"At the end of the first half we had a couple mistakes, so instead of us having the lead at the end of the half we go down six, then they hit a shot that gets them going at the end of the third quarter," Stackhouse said. "We played good enough to hang around but I never felt we had control of the game."
The Hornets' big front court beat up on Washington, outrebounding the Wizards 51-35. P.J. Brown and Jamaal Magloire combined for 27 rebounds.
New Orleans stated its case early. The ice-cold Wizards fell behind 22-7 and ended the first period trailing 27-16. Washington shot just 28 percent, got outrebounded 17-8 and barely exceeded the season-low 13 first-quarter points it registered in a 32-point loss Friday to Utah.