Strickland finds shot just in time for OT Wizards guard warms to task, tops Wolves, 91-88, for 4th win all on road


MINNEAPOLIS -- He's among the league leaders in assists yet, through seven games, Rod Strickland still hadn't found his shooting stroke. And it was shaping up to be yet another one of those nights for the Washington Wizards' point guard last night, as Strickland missed one shot after another.

"I couldn't hit anything," Strickland said. "The law of averages says that something has to go in."

The odds finally worked in Strickland's favor in overtime last night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. After missing two shots in the final seconds that could have won the game in regulation, Strickland scored six of Washington's nine points in overtime -- including what proved to be the game-winning jumper with 27 seconds left -- to lead the Wizards to a 91-88 win before 16,491 at the Target Center.

And so the seesaw season continues for the Wizards (4-4), who have now won four games on the road -- including wins at Chicago and Utah -- but have failed to win in two attempts at home.

What was impressive about the back-and-forth affair last night was how tough the Wizards played on a night where they easily could have suffered a letdown. Not only were they fresh off the Bulls win, but forward Juwan Howard sat out the game with back spasms.

But enough people stepped up to help the Wizards' cause last night. Chris Webber had 22 points and a season-high 17 rebounds -- the sixth time this season he has led the team in both categories. He also blocked four shots, despite straining his back late in regulation.

Strickland scored 21, Terry Davis had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Ben Wallace had eight rebounds in 21 minutes.

"Those guys are athletic, very aggressive and very tough," Tracy Murray said of Wallace and Davis. "They stepped it up. Everybody stepped up."

They had to, because of the Minnesota duo of Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury. Garnett grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds and scored 20 points. And Marbury had 26 points and 10 assists, as he waged a battle of New York City point guards with Strickland.

"Marbury, Garnett, those guys are great cornerstones," Strickland said of the Wolves' 20- and 21-year-old stars. "They have a great future."

From the outset it seemed the Timberwolves would blow out the Wizards, taking a 10-point lead less than four minutes into the game. Washington rallied behind its bench, and had its own 10-point first-half lead before the teams went into halftime tied at 46.

And it was a back-and-forth affair for much of the second half, with the Timberwolves tying the game at 82 with 20 seconds left in regulation.

Strickland, seven of 20 through the end of regulation, scored four of Washington's first six points of the extra session, giving the Wizards an 88-82 lead with two free throws with 3: 24 left. And then, after Marbury later tied the game at 88 on a jumper with 54 seconds left, Strickland backed his counterpart into the lane and scored on the short jumper.

"It was a big win," Strickland said. "Now we have to go home and solve our home-court situation."

Washington 23 23 21 15 9 -- 91

Minnesota 28 18 18 18 6 -- 88

Pub Date: 11/14/97

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