- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

ORLANDO, Fla. When Michael Jordan Michael shoots 3-for-16 and scores a season-low 12 points and Richard Hamilton leaves the game for good after just eight minutes, the ingredients should be in place for the Washington Wizards to lose the game.

They were, but they didn't.

The Wizards (13-12) continued to confound the NBA last night, posting an improbable 93-75 victory over the Orlando Magic to extend their winning streak to eight games, longest since they did the same in 1983. But even more stunning is the fashion in which they accomplished it.

Hamilton, the NBA's Player of the Week, had to watch the entire second half from the locker room while receiving treatment for a pulled right groin that will keep him out of tonight's road game against the New York Knicks. But with Hamilton missing all of the meaningful minutes and Jordan in a funk, the Wizards turned elsewhere for a strong effort that had the sellout crowd of 17,248 booing the home team.

Leading by four points after three quarters, the Wizards utilizing a small lineup that mostly included Jordan, Hubert Davis, Tyronn Lue, Chris Whitney, Popeye Jones and Brendan Haywood, the Wizards outscored the Magic 29-15 in a fourth period of utter and complete domination. Davis, who led all scorers in place of Hamilton, scored nine of his 19 points in the quarter, Lue nine of his 11and Whitney five of his 11.

This all added up to the Wizards shooting 66.7 percent in the fourth quarter while holding the Magic playing without Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill to just 7-for-26 (26.9 percent) in the quarter.

"We're starting to find ways to win even when our backs are against the wall," said Jones, who finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds.

"With injuries and guys struggling, we have guys stepping up. It's a great feeling. We just want to keep this up and go home and have a great Christmas."

First, there is the little matter of tonight's game at Madison Square Garden. When the teams met last Dec. 14 at MCI Center, Washington spanked the Knicks 96-80.

"It's going to be a tough game in New York," Jones said. "We know they're going to be ready against us because of what happened at our place. We just have to be ready to play our game again and try to impose our will on them. That's what basketball is about."

Said Jordan, who scored just two points in the second half: "[The Wizards] definitely impressed me tonight. We've got some big shots coming from some other guys. It took me awhile to realize that these guys have confidence in themselves. I might as well have confidence in them, too. I'm happy with the way the guys are playing."

On the down side, Hamilton's injury will keep him out of tonight's game, forcing coach Doug Collins to chose between starting Davis or Tyrone Nesby.

Last night after the game, Davis was asked if the Magic, minus their superstars, were the type of team that brought out the hunger in the Wizards.

"We smell blood anyway," Davis said after helping the Wizards' tenacious defense limit the Magic to making 31 of 94 shots (32 percent), including 4-for-21 from behind the arc. "We're just trying to get wins here and continue this streak."

In addition to playing minus their two best players, the Magic lost Mike Miller, who qualifies as their third best, with a bruised lower back five minutes into the second half. Miller finished with a team-high 14 points in 19 minutes.

But the Magic were picked by many to win the Eastern Conference championship this season while the Wizards were expected to finish at the bottom even with Jordan. So when it was pointed out to Collins that the win came against a shorthanded team, the coach treaded carefully but still credited his team.

"I don't want to take anything away from our guys," Collins said, "but at the end of the season they're going to ask you how did you do it and how many [did you win]? They were without Grant and Tracy and then they lose Mike Miller. So I said we've got to find a way to win. We went to a small lineup so Michael could match up against [Pat] Garrity, and we had three shooters on the floor."

Surprisingly enough, the game was close for most of the night until the fourth quarter. Up to that point the Wizards' biggest lead was seven points; the Magic's five.

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