- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

With the game hanging in the balance a game they probably should have been able to win going away Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins called his team around him during a final timeout last night and told them there was no way that they should lose to the Miami Heat.
"In the last possession I told them, 'guys, we're going to stop them because we deserve to win this game because we're the better team tonight. We're not going to lose this game. One stop is all we need to win this game,'" Collins said.
And one stop albeit a resounding one is just what they got.
With 11.3 seconds remaining and the Wizards clinging to a two-point lead, the Wizards forced Miami's LaPhonso Ellis to throw up a desperation 3-pointer that banged off the rim. The ball landed safely in the hands of Washington's Tyronn Lue as time expired and the Wizards were left clutching an 82-80 win in front of an announced sellout crowd of 20,674.
But even though there were clearly plenty of empty seats last night, those who made the trip to MCI Center had to be thrilled with what they saw.
The victory was the fourth in a row for the Wizards, their longest winning streak of the season. It improved their record to 9-12 and marked an end to the Heat's six-game winning streak at MCI Center.
Last season the Wizards' longest winning streak reached five games. They can tie that Friday with a win over the New York Knicks.
Don't look now, but the Wizards, the team that lost eight games in a row earlier in the season, are on a roll. Instead of bailing on the season as so many had predicted, the Wizards have undergone a huge reversal of thinking and now believe they are capable of winning every game they are in.
"I just think we're really starting to understand our roles, offensively and defensively," said Michael Jordan, who finished with 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
Jordan also addressed the team during that crucial huddle seconds before they sent the Heat tumbling to their 16th loss in 20 games.
"I brought the guys together and said, 'We're on a string. That means that we're going to have to cover each other's tail.' And we did."
Collins pointed out that the victory was just one step in the growing process the team is presently experiencing. They have won seven of their last 10 games and, perhaps just as importantly, they have demonstrated to themselves that they can also win at home.
The Wizards are 6-6 on the road. But before last night's victory home wins were rare. Before the game Collins indicated that it is always tough for teams to play well after coming off a road trip the Wizards had played they previous four games on the road and won three but the Wizards, who are now 3-6 at home, didn't seem to have that problem for most of the night.
The Wizards made 55.6 percent of their shots in the first half and pretty much did what they wanted to against the Heat's once vaunted defense. Jordan led the way 14 points in the half. Christian Laettner, who finished with 13 points, scored nine by halftime. And Richard Hamilton, who had another impressive showing with 23 points, also had nine by halftime.
Leading 49-40 at the half, the Wizards pushed their lead to 60-45 with 9:07 left in the third.
But a Washington cold spell coupled with the Heat showing signs of life resulted in a 25-13 Heat run that pulled them to 73-70 with more than nine minutes to play.
"I was a horrible game for us but we still had a chance to win it," Miami coach Pat Riley said. "We held them to 11 points in the fourth quarter and that was good. But we couldn't make the key shots. If we didn't get that far behind in the first place we wouldn't have been in the position we were in. That's just not good. It's been a rough season for us."
Jim Jackson led Miami with 18 points. Ellis came off the bench to score 15. Alonzo Mourning, was not much of a factor, finishing with 11 points and three rebounds in 35 minutes. Brian Grant added eight points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds.

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