WASHINGTON (AP) -- A bribe and a tired opponent combined to give
the Washington Wizards a long overdue victory over a winning team.
"The key motivational tool was at halftime,'' Washington coach
Doug Collins said, "when I told them if we won tonight I'd give
them tomorrow off. More so than money or anything else like that,
that pushed it over the hump.''
The Wizards had lost four of their last five. Since Dec. 4, they
had lost all their games to teams currently with winning records,
while going undefeated against teams below .500.
"You're playing against a team that was tired,'' said Michael
Jordan, who scored 17 points. "But we did put together a good four
quarters. We have to build on it. We ended the year on a good note,
and we have to start the year off on a good note.''
San Antonio, at the end of a four-game road trip, committed 18
turnovers, including four in a row during in a late 7-0 run that
produced the first double-digit lead of the game, 96-86, with two
The Spurs came back, but the Wizards held on thanks to a jumper
by Christian Laettner with 1:08 remaining and a string of free
throws in the final minute. The final score was as close as it was
only because San Antonio's Steve Kerr hit a 3-pointer at the
Tim Duncan had a season-high 35 points, 13 rebounds and five
blocks for the Spurs, but he also had seven turnovers. David
Robinson had 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The Spurs lost three of four on their road trip, all to losing
teams. They lost by two to Atlanta, one to New York and two to
"It's a tough thing to swallow right now,'' Duncan said. "But
we're right at that edge where if one or two games could've gone
down differently it's a whole 'nother road trip. We're going to
stick with it, keep pushing, and hopefully we'll get those games
where we're up one on the other team.''
Even though both teams played -- and lost -- elsewhere the night
before, the Spurs and Wizards put on an energized, fast-paced show
before a festive New Year's Eve crowd.
Jordan was especially pumped, trying out all his moves on San
Antonio's Bruce Bowen. The best moment came when he dribbled
downcourt and put on a stop-and-go move that left Bowen
embarrassingly headed in the wrong direction, and gave Jordan an
opening to make the shot.
The score was tied 24-24 after the first quarter, and the
Wizards led 52-50 at halftime and 73-71 after three. Neither team
led by more than eight until the fourth quarter.
For a second or two, it appeared Duncan was gone for good with
6:15 in the third quarter following a contentious exchange that
resulted in the ejection of teammate Stephen Jackson. Even after
the game, no one was sure exactly what had transpired.
It started when Duncan elbowed Laettner in the face while being
fouled by Hughes. A foul was called on Hughes, but Duncan said he
was told he was getting a technical for the elbow and began an
extended argument with the officials .
Two technical fouls were called, and it was announced that both
were on Duncan and that he was ejected. The officials then
clarified the call, saying that one technical was on Duncan and
another on Jackson for slapping the official. The slapping offense
resulted in the ejection.
"I thought he called a technical on Christian, then clarified
he was calling it on me,'' Duncan said. "And then he threw Jack
out. I still don't understand why he did that.''
The Wizards are 4-0 on New Year's Eve since moving to the
MCI Center in 1997. Their last home win over San Antonio came at
the recently demolished US Airways Arena on Nov. 6, 1996. ...
Washington coach Doug Collins said injured rookie guard Juan Dixon
is "probably another week'' from returning to practice. Dixon is
recovering from a hyperextended left elbow. ... Spurs forward Kevin
Willis was suspended for the game without pay for fighting with
Clarence Weatherspoon in the Spurs one-point loss at New York on