Sunday, November 25, 2001

Victory was sighted on Fun Street last night.
The scoreboard provided confirmation: the Wizards 88, the Celtics 84.
Five extra minutes were required. The champagne tastes that much better.
How are you doing, big guy?
Not you, Al Gore. What are you doing in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood? You’re so yesteryear, so silly with the beard.
Victory does not come around too often in these parts. three in 12 games to be exact. Where have you been, big guy, hanging with Marty Schottenheimer?
Sit down. Rest your legs. Can we get you anything? A drink? A pillow? So pleased to see you again.
Christian Laettner hit an 18-footer, and Richard Hamilton made a steal, and Michael Jordan found that he no longer can dominate a game at the end if he has played too many minutes. And he played 45 minutes, which is too many. He was done, spent, by the final minutes of regulation.
It ended an eight-game losing streak, the longest in Jordan’s career.
This was a reprieve of sorts, with an assist from the schedule. It works the other way as well, as the Wizards will experience soon enough. Seven of their next eight games are on the road.
If you’re the Wizards, nursing a 3-9 record, that is 12 down, 70 to go. That is a couple of lifetimes, possibly more at this rate of ineptitude. Doug Collins did not expect the project to be painless. He did not expect it to be a root canal, either.
Nothing is ever easy with the Wizards, not even after they went up by 15 points with 6:38 left in regulation.
“We were in a great position, up 15 points, and we just went dead,” Collins said. “Our guys were so tired. They were playing on no legs at all in the last six minutes [of regulation].”
The Wizards sometimes exhibit an extreme lack of understanding around the basics, and the NBA is not the best place to learn the basics. There is not enough time. There is never enough time. Kwame Brown is nearing the midway point of a high school season. He will hit the wall in February, if he is lucky. He also could hit it in the next couple of weeks.
Collins already is beating his head against the wall. He has left no part of the team unscathed, with the exception of Jordan, who happens to be the boss, regardless of his player-only designation.
Laettner threw the ball away in the first minute of the game after misinterpreting a cue from Hamilton. The ball went one way, Hamilton the other, and the crowd groaned.
The groan factor grows by the game. The evidence is starting to accumulate, and the team’s prospects no longer look modestly hopeful. Did Sports Illustrated really pick this team to finish sixth in the Eastern Conference? When did Ahmad Rashad join the magazine’s staff?
Jordan showed his age early and late, enduring yet another poor shooting night. He was 1-for-8 shooting at one point in the first half. He missed an alley-oop shot. Another time, after stealing the ball near the midcourt line, he blew a layup.
Jordan also squandered a put-back opportunity, rushing the shot when he could have taken more time and care.
Jordan tried to test Paul Pierce after returning to the game in the second quarter, and Pierce blocked Jordan’s shot. The sequence was significant, if only because it was Pierce who blocked Jordan’s shot to decide the first meeting between the teams in Boston.
As if to show it was no fluke, Pierce blocked Jordan’s shot again near the end of regulation and then hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 78-78.
The Celtics nearly overcame a game’s worth of listlessness with their late push.
For the most part, the Celtics played with a noticeable lack of energy following their two-point loss to the Raptors the previous night. This is the NBA. You lose one night, then board a plane and play the next night.
No one feels your pain. If anything, the weak sense your vulnerability and feel empowered by it. That appeared to be the case with the Wizards, only too eager to take advantage of a tired team and build a 15-point lead.
The Wizards needed every last point, as it turned out, and an overtime session to end their ordeal, if only for one night.

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