Michael Jordan was incredibly hot, but the rest of the Washington Wizards were not. The quickly sinking Wizards wasted a season-high 44 points from Jordan and still lost by nine points to the Utah Jazz last night at MCI Center.
The Wizards can’t waste games of this magnitude from Jordan. When their main man is on, somebody else better step up. The Wizards were slaughtered in the paint in crashing to their sixth straight loss.
The Wizards allowed the Jazz to score 52 points from the lane. Utah guard John Stockton tied the NBA’s season high with 17 assists, forward Karl Malone scored a team-high 30 points with 12 rebounds and four assists and the Jazz won 101-92 before a sellout crowd of 20,674.
Jordan’s 44 points tied the NBA’s single-game high this season, previously achieved by Orlando’s Tracy McGrady and Denver’s Nick Van Exel.
Jordan made 17 of 33 shots and added seven rebounds and three assists to his line, but he obviously needs help. His 17 baskets were two more than his teammates combined.
“Michael said, ‘They can’t guard me in the post,’ so we tried to do everything foul line and under,” Wizards coach Doug Collins said. “Utah is a team that doesn’t like to double-team a lot.”
Said Jordan: “Hopefully, we’re not going to have too many more nights like this. I look down at the box score, and I’m the only one who shot the ball decently. I got what [shots] I wanted. Tonight was a good learning experience for [my teammates].”
It was just the 10th time in franchise history a Washington player has scored 44 points in a game. Jordan joins Walt Bellamy (three times), Gus Johnson, Earl Monroe, Phil Chenier, Elvin Hayes and Bernard King (twice).
As has been the case most of the season, the Wizards (2-7) tied the game late, only to roll over down the stretch. The Wizards tied it 87-87 with 5:51 left on Jordan’s 15-foot right wing jumper. From that moment, the Jazz turned it on and outscored the Wizards 14-5 the rest of the way.
The Jazz (4-6) were coming off an embarrassing 32-point blowout loss Wednesday night in Atlanta. A quick trip to the nation’s capital solved all their problems.
Jordan was on fire in the first half. Jazz coach Jerry Sloan went to his bench and put Bryon Russell on Jordan in the second quarter. Jordan used Russell so badly that Russell left the game late in the second quarter complaining of a strained groin.
Jordan scored 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting in the half. In the second quarter alone, he scored 16 points on six of eight shooting.
When Russell hoisted the white flag, it was Quincy Lewis’ turn. Jordan was able to post up the 6-foot-7 second-year man out of Minnesota from 15 feet and turn and fire at will. Lewis did score a career-high 18 points despite playing matador defense on Jordan.
Despite Jordan’s incredible half, the Wizards couldn’t shake the geriatric Jazz. Jordan scored a season-high 24 points for a half as the Wizards held a slim 49-48 lead at the break.
The Jazz closed the half on a 13-5 run to keep the game close, forward Donyell Marshall scoring six points during the run on uncontested layups and dunks. Poor post defense by Wizards center Jahidi White allowed Marshall to erupt. Marshall led the Jazz in the first half with 15 points on seven of nine shooting and scored a season-high 28 points.
“We made too many mistakes, and they certainly capitalized,” Jordan said. “It’s all about eliminating mistakes.”