The Arizona Republic
By BOB YOUNG
The Arizona Republic
WASHINGTON – Say this for the Phoenix Suns: They’re starting to pile up the Ping-Pong balls.
The Suns blew a 15-point lead in the final nine minutes last night in a 105-100 loss to the Washington Wizards, a team tied for the fewest victories in the NBA coming into the game.
But the Suns, with a 17-30 record, are making up ground fast. And that means more Ping-Pong balls in the hopper for the draft lottery.
Which puts the Suns in a quandary tonight.
They visit the New York Knicks and face their former star, Stephon Marbury. If they win, they might cost themselves in the lottery.
If the Suns lose, the Knicks improve their position, and the Suns have their first-round pick, too, from the Marbury trade.
What to do? If last night’s collapse is an indication, the Suns are going to be tough to beat for the worst record.
“Those are the ones that kill you,” said Suns coach Mike D’Antoni. “We’ve gotten into the habit our last three games of not playing hard enough in the first half.
“The third quarters have been great, but we can’t do that. We don’t have enough depth or firepower inside to be able to take 24 minutes and play halfway.”
The Suns got 28 points from Joe Johnson and 24 from Shawn Marion, but they gave up a 15-0 run immediately after building their 15-point lead.
Despite that, they led by three with 4:12 to play, then missed five straight shots, four by Marion.
Someone asked Marion how the Wizards could rally when they were playing so badly.
You couldn’t argue with Marion’s logic: “We were, too.”
Roundup: Kobe out a week
LOS ANGELES – Latrell Sprewell scored 35 points, Sam Cassell added 28, and Minnesota defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 97-84 night for the Timberwolves’ 21st victory in their last 26 games.
Shaquille O’Neal scored 22 points for the Lakers, who dropped to 7-11 without the injured Karl Malone. Kareem Rush added 17 points, including two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, starting in the place of injured Kobe Bryant.
Bryant was reduced to being a cheerleader on the Lakers’ bench. He cut his right index finger at home Thursday night and will be out at least a week.
The Wolves improved the NBA’s best road record to 17-8 by outscoring the Lakers 32-18 in the fourth quarter. Cassell had 16 points and made all eight of his free-throw attempts in the final period.
Pistons 90, Raptors 89: At Toronto, Richard Hamilton scored all eight of Detroit’s points in overtime, and Ben Wallace blocked two shots in the final five seconds.
76ers 85, Hornets 82: At Philadelphia, Aaron McKie hit a pair of jumpers in the final 1:35, and Allen Iverson returned to the Sixers’ lineup after missing two games with a sprained finger and had 31 points and eight assists.
Knicks 92, Celtics 74: At Boston, Stephon Marbury scored 17 points, and Michael Doleac added 15.
Heat 97, Clippers 88: At Miami, Lamar Odom had 25 points and 14 rebounds against his former team, and Rafer Alston secured the victory on a 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to put Miami ahead 91-83.
Jazz 85, Grizzlies 79: At Memphis, Andrei Kirilenko had 21 points, and the Jazz outrebounded Memphis 44-26 to win their third straight game.
Bucks 101, Cavaliers 95: At Milwaukee, with former Bucks coach George Karl making his first trip back to the Bradley Center, Michael Redd scored 24 points as the Bucks held off Cleveland.
Warriors 101, Bulls 81: At Oakland, Calif., Speedy Claxton, Jason Richardson and Mike Dunleavy scored 15 points apiece.