- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 23, 2001

NEW YORK Michael Jordan can't jump as high or run as fast as he once could. He can't befuddle defenders on a whim, something he once did on a regular basis.
At 38, Jordan can't do a lot of things as well as before. However, he still knows how to rip out the heart of the New York Knicks better than anyone.
Last night Jordan did it again. He didn't score 55 points as he did in the early stages of his first comeback. Instead, he stuck a 19-footer in the final seconds of the game that siphoned the life from the Knicks and the 19,763 fans that packed into Madison Square Garden, lifting the Wizards to an 87-86 victory. The win, the Wizards' ninth in a row, matched the longest winning streak in the franchise's 40-year history. A victory at Charlotte on Wednesday would break the mark, first set in 1978.
Jordan's shot came with 3.2 seconds left, breaking an 83-83 tie. Even though the teams combined to score five more points Chris Whitney secured the victory with a pair of free throws, while Allan Houston hit a meaningless 3-pointer for New York (12-15) Jordan's jumper settled the outcome of a game that saw 15 lead changes and nine ties, all in the second half.
"I stepped up tonight once again in New York, one of my favorite places," said Jordan, who scored a game-high 26 points one night after scoring a season-low 12 against Orlando. "It was just a good gut check for us."
How true. The Wizards (14-12) were playing their first game of the season without Richard Hamilton. The reigning NBA player of the week missed last night's game with a pulled groin muscle.
With Hamilton out plus the added burden of playing in Orlando the night before and checking into their New York hotel after 3 a.m. yesterday the Garden appeared to be the perfect place for the Wizards' longest winning streak in 23 years to come to a close.
New York, led by Kurt Thomas' 16 points, shot 57 percent in the first quarter and led 32-20 after one quarter. But the Wizards turned it up defensively in the second quarter, holding the Knicks to eight points on 4-for-19 shooting.
Latrell Sprewell, who sparred verbally with Jordan all night and fell victim on Jordan's final shot, finished with six points and made just three of 16 field goals.
The Wizards took their first lead of the night at 42-40 at the start of the second half on a Jordan dunk and a Hubert Davis 3-pointer, but they could never pull away.
And it looked as if the game might be slipping away from the Wizards in the fourth quarter. New York went on a 16-3 run that gave the Knicks an 80-70 lead with 6:57 left and galvanized the crowd.
But the Wizards answered the challenge, scoring 13 of the game's next 16 points to set the stage for Jordan.
"They made a run, and we couldn't stop the bleeding," said New York point guard Mark Jackson, who finished with 14 points and eight assists. "They executed, we fell short. The effort was there, the intensity was there. We played against a red-hot team, but this was a game we should have won."
After the Wizards called a timeout with 24.2 seconds left, there was no question where the ball was headed.
"No, no, no, no, no, no," said Davis, who finished with 14 points, when asked if there was any question who would take the shot. "There's never a question, especially when Rip's out. There's no question when Rip's back. It's going to start in [Jordans] hands. And once again he did it again."
But don't get the impression this was a one-for-all effort. It wasn't.
Brendan Haywood, one of the early favorites for rookie of the year, finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and a pair of steals. Tyronn Lue, who continues to improve, scored 12 points, grabbed four rebounds and made three of the Wizards' 13 steals.
Washington also committed just 10 turnovers compared with 23 for the fast-fading Knicks. That enabled the Wizards to be outshot 45.2 percent to 37.3 and still win.
"We have a chance to win because guys are keeping their composure and guys are stepping up," Wizards coach Doug Collins said.
And even though he could have been talking about just Jordan, he was talking about the entire team.

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