This time, the Washington Wizards didn't collapse in the fourth quarter. The Milwaukee Bucks didn't have a point guard who could force one.
The Wizards took an eight-point lead into the final period Sunday and actually increased it, snapping a two-game losing streak and handing the Milwaukee Bucks their worst loss of the season with a 98-86 victory.
"We've been really lacking in the fourth quarter," said Mitch Richmond, who led the Wizards with 23 points. "We just wanted to move the ball a little get some open shots."
Those open shots included five 3-pointers in 10 attempts over the last 12 minutes. The Wizards, who had scored a dozen or fewer fourth-quarter points three times in their previous seven games, this time had the desire and energy to finish the job.
"I think the day off really affected our guys," said coach Bernie Bickerstaff, whose team rested Saturday after playing three straight days. "They never stopped fighting."
It helped that the Bucks looked like a team that's been through an upheaval and hasn't had time to settle, which happens to be true. They've acquired six new players in the last four days, and three of them -- including point guard Sam Cassell -- are hurt.
"It's kind of tough because we're not playing with as many guys," said Ray Allen, who scored 22 points. "It's going to be a grind. You've got to work through that. We have no identity now, so we kind of have to mold ourselves into an identity, whatever it's going to be."
The Bucks have lost two straight after a six-game winning streak, with both losses coming after a series of trades that sent starting point guard Terrell Brandon to Minnesota and starting forward Tyrone Hill tPhiladelphia.
Cassell, obtained from New Jersey to replace Brandon, has a sprained ankle and won't be ready for another week or two. Two other new acquisitions are hurt: Paul Grant has tendinitis in his right knee, and Scott Williams has stress fractures in both legs.
In essence, the game boiled down to the Bucks missing their injured point guard more than the Wizards missed theirs. With Cassell not available, neither Adonis Jordan nor out-of-position shooting guards Vinny Del Negro and Allen could run the team effectively.
Meanwhile, Jeff McInnis and Chris Whitney committed only one turnover between them as they subbed for Rod Strickland for the fifth consecutive game. Juwan Howard added 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Ben Wallace had a strong game off the bench with nine points and 13 rebounds for the Wizards.
The Wizards had four turnovers in their first five possessions, and the Bucks converted all four into layups for an 8-2 lead. The lead grew to 23-9 before Del Negro picked up his second foul.
Jordan, signed to a 10-day contract earlier in the day, took over at the point, and the Bucks weren't the same again. The Wizards, with two layups and a 3-pointer from Richmond and a bunch of free throws, finished the quarter with a 22-4 run to lead 31-27.
The lead grew to double digits in the third quarter as the Wizards started hitting 3-pointers and took care of the ball. Those four early turnovers were half of their total for the entire game. The Bucks never put together a sustained run in the second half.
"Our challenge is to find a way to win games when we're not totally healthy. We've done it before. We started the six-game winning streak when Terrell was hurt," coach George Karl said. "When Sam gets healthy, we'll be a better basketball team."
NotesThe Bucks' previous worst loss had been by 11 points to Philadelphia. ... The Wizards placed Jahidi White on the injured list and activated Tim Legler . White is scheduled for knee surgery Monday, while Legler had missed 16 games with a sprained right ankle. Legler did not play. ... The Bucks did dress two players obtained last week. Tim Thomas played 19 minutes and scored two points. Chris Gatling did not play.
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