- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

ATLANTA Chris Whitney heard.

Michael Jordan and Wizards coach Doug Collins have told their players that they will benefit if they make the open shot when Jordan passes to them out of the double-team, and last night Whitney did just that.

Whitney canned a 3-pointer with 38.8 seconds left against Atlanta, and that proved to the be the backbreaker as the Wizards evened their record at 1-1 with a 98-88 victory over the Hawks. Whitney's jumper extended the Wizards' lead to 93-86.

Jordan led the Wizards with 31 points on 13 for 30 shooting. Richard Hamilton added 22, and Whitney finished with 16 points. Jason Terry led the Hawks (0-2) with 23 points.

"When Michael came off the court in the last three minutes I told him to trust his teammates," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "I told him if he trusted them they'd come through for him."

Jordan's right knee bothered him in Tuesday's season-opening loss to New York, which probably had something to do with his sub-par performance last night.

The Hawks team the Wizards faced last night at least from a personnel standpoint in no way resembled the team that stumbled its way into the lottery. The Hawks added Theo Ratliff, one of the league's top defensive centers in the league, and they also added Dream Team forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim. As a result, the Hawks are one of the teams expected to challenge for one of the eight Eastern Conference playoff seeds.

The Wizards arrived at the start of the third quarter leading 74-72. Jordan had 23 points by this point, already better than the 19 he had against the Knicks. With Whitney scoring 10 points in the quarter and Richard Hamilton adding seven, the Wizards found themselves in position to win their first game of the season.

"They all did a lot of things well," Collins said, making special mention of Etan Thomas, who won his first NBA game last night. "But the thing they did best was play defense. I can't say enough about the effort that they gave out there."

Jordan gave the Wizards an 82-77 lead on a high arching baseline jumper with slightly more than six minutes to play.

After a 6-0 Atlanta run that saw the Hawks take an 83-82 lead, back-to-back baskets from Jones and Hamilton gave the Wizards an 86-83 advantage that forced the Hawks to call timeout and regroup with 4:13 left.

With the Wizards leading 90-85, Ratliff missed three of four free throws, a blunder that left the Wizards clinging to a 90-86 lead with 2:24 left. This gave way to a sloppy stretch of basketball, as both teams' attempts at scoring were unsuccessful.

It didn't take long for Jordan to get into his offense. Jordan looked nothing like the player that many lazy newspaper columnists from around the country bashed following his 7 for 21 showing three days ago in the Garden.

Guarded early by Emanual Davis, Jordan hit for 11 first quarter points on 5 for 11 shooting from the floor.When Jordan came out with 3:34 left in the quarter the Wizards led 22-17. They eventually led 28-19 thanks to 7-2 run, and held a 28-23 lead headed into the second quarter.

Washington's nine-point first quarter lead quickly disappeared at the onset of the second quarter, and when Hanno Mottola's jumper popped the net with 9 minutes, 42 seconds left in the half the game was tied 31-31.

Jordan stayed hot through the quarter, pretty much abusing Dion Glover and Davis on his way to 19 points in the half on 9 of 20 shooting.

But Atlanta has more players in reserve on whom it can call on, and that was the difference as the first half drew to an end. Trailing the Wizards 49-47 following a basket by Richard Hamilton, Jordan's former Chicago teammate Toni Kukoc drilled a 3-pointer. And with 2.6 seconds left in the half, Terry's three off of a turnover pushed Atlanta's lead at halftime to 53-49.

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