- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

The Los Angeles Lakers began their late-season, four-game East Coast road trip with a glorified, nationally televised workout.
The Lakers, winners of six of their last seven games, toyed with the Wizards last night, making a 113-93 victory before 20,674 at MCI Center appear simple. The Lakers' point total was the most against the Wizards this season.
The loss featured a pair of career lows for Michael Jordan, who finished with just two points on 1-for-5 shooting from the floor. Jordan's previous low was six against the Indiana Pacers on Dec.27.
Jordan also played just 12 minutes, one minute less than he logged against the Milwaukee Bucks, tonight's opponent, on March15, 1986. In that game Jordan scored just 12 points.
Jordan played all 12 of his minutes in the first half and never set foot on the court in the second. For some inexplicable reason, during the fourth quarter his minutes on the official scorer's chart fluctuated between 12 and 13.
Jordan has been staying warm by riding a stationary bike during games. But Jordan spent the entire second half seated at the end of the bench still on the mend from Feb.27 knee surgery.
"I talked to Michael at halftime and said, 'Let's see how the third quarter goes. If it looks like we're back into it we'll play. If not then, we've got to get ready for the rest of the week,'" coach Doug Collins said. "He was in complete agreement with that."
Said Jordan: "I felt good. It was just Doug's decision to make sure that I don't overdo it and get ready for a tougher battle tomorrow. It seems like this game was out of control, but physically I felt fine."
Even though the Wizards (34-40) were a long shot at best to beat the Lakers (53-21), they still had much to play for. An upset could have closed the gap between them and the Pacers for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs to 1 games. Indiana blew an 18-point third quarter lead, losing 105-94 at Boston.
Before the game Collins said there was no denying that the Lakers are still the best team in the league, and for most of the night at least in the first half, when the outcome was still relatively in doubt they did their best to live up to that billing.
"They're just a powerful team," Collins said afterward. "They are a very underrated defensive team who can stop people when they have to. They have a championship arrogance about them. The Bulls used to have that same swagger that they knew they were better than you."
Added Jordan: "Until you knock the Lakers off the block they are still the team to beat."
After allowing the Lakers to score 66 points and shoot almost 56 percent from the floor in the first half, it was clear the Wizards were in over their heads. It got worse in the second half, when the lead grew to 25. And by the end, with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant long gone from the game, a once-frothing MCI was as empty as Charlotte Coliseum.
Two hours earlier, no doubt the presence of the NBA champions channeled a level of electricity into MCI that hadn't been there all season. Unfortunately, it was the Lakers who thrived off of it.
The Wizards kept the first quarter competitive for a few minutes, but it wasn't long before Bryant was bounding through the air, his path to the basket virtually unimpeded. In a stretch of about two minutes, the Lakers, perhaps bolstered by the unmitigated adulation of the fans, built the lead to 27-17, and the Wizards never presented a challenge again.
With Jordan ineffective, Richard Hamilton led the Wizards with 21 points. Courtney Alexander added 19.
If there was a bright spot, it was be the performance of Kwame Brown. The rookie, who has struggled for much of this season, finished with a career-high 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting. Brown also had six rebounds.
"I kind of get upset because I'm playing good now but we're losing," Brown said. "I'm just trying to do the best that I can to get to the playoffs. But me playing good is not good enough if we're not winning."
The massive O'Neal paced the Lakers with 22 points and 18 rebounds. Rick Fox added 15 points. Bryant scored all of his 14 points in the first half and didn't work up so much as a sweat in the second.
The Lakers made 51 percent of their shots from the field. However, it was from 3-point range that the Lakers killed the Wizards, making 10 of 18. It marked the second game in a row a Western Conference squad picked the Wizards to pieces from behind the arc. The Mavericks were 10-for-20 on 3s against them Sunday.


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