Washington beats a possibly postseason-bound Clipper squad, boosting their own record to 15-17 to stay in the playoff hunt themselves.
|Elton Brand tries in futility to stop Michael Jordan.|
by Fred Schiebel, Head Writer
WASHINGTON -- A much better result than last year.
When the Clippers strolled into town during the '00-'01 season, they found themselves on the bad end of an embarrassing whooping by the lowly Wizards. But by the time the final buzzer sounded, hapless Washington had let them back in the game and gift wrapped the victory.
This time it went differently. Michael Jordan, trapped in a suit back then, scored 31 points as the Wizards beat the Clippers 92-84 at the MCI Center Tuesday night.
To point out the obvious, things have definitely changed.
"That was one of our worst losses last year," he said. "We wanted to prove tonight that we aren't the same team."
They looked like world champs for awhile. Washington began the game with its best start of the season, hitting their first five shots and Jordan sinking his first six. By the six minute mark he already had 13 points, going on to miss only one of ehis ight attempts in the first period. The Wizards followed suit, posting a 78 percent mark from the field to take a commanding 34-20 lead.
"I wish we could bottle that," coach Doug Collins said. "We couldn't miss."
In the second quarter things evened out a bit. Despite holding the Clippers to 29 percent accuracy, the Wizards somehow were worse, shooting only 28 percent. They still took a 46-37 cushion into halfftime, with Jordan leading the way with 18 points, despite cooling off considerably, connecting on a mere one of six shots in the period. He had difficulty getting good looks over his defenders, 6'10" Lamar Odom and the incredibly athletic Darius Miles, who combined to block him three times.
"They have physical advantages that most small forwards don't have," Jordan said. "It took me awhile to adjust when I went inside."
The Wizards upped their lead back to thirteen by the end of the third, 71-58. Jordan again was forced to go to a block party, connecting on only two of seven attempts from the floor. Washington guards Chris Whitney (14 points) and Hubert Davis did most of the damage, as their jumpers began to connect with more regularity.
"We've been off for so long," Whitney said. "We've played only one game in eight days. I'm surprised we weren't more rusty."
Los Angeles began to make its move in the fourth however, with a pogo-sticking Miles offensive rebound and dunk over Jordan narrowing the margin to eight with seven minutes to play. Jordan went to work, connecting on a jumper then getting a steal and delivering a perfect pass to cherrypicking Courtney Alexander. He then faltered a bit, missing his next three shots, but the Clippers couldn't score either.
"I felt our team struggled at the end with fatigue," Collins said. "Long layoffs will do that to you. There's nothing that can replicate being in an actual game."
The Wizards found a way put together a string of baskets, with Jordan's fadeaway baseline jumper over Odom and Clipper center Michael Olawakandi the final dagger, giving Washington an 87-73 advantage with a little over three minutes to play.
Cory Maggette led the Clippers with 23 points. Alexander and Tyronn Lue had 12 points each off Washington's bench.