- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 4, 2002

MILWAUKEE The Washington Wizards haven't kissed the season goodbye yet, but after last night's beating at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, their lips are puckered.
The Wizards found out before the game that Michael Jordan awoke with a swollen right knee that sent him to the injured list in the morning and later in the day ended his season.
That news appeared to siphon off what remained of the Wizards' playoff aspirations as they daydreamed their way through the first half and eventually lost to the Bucks 105-90 before 18,179 at Bradley Center.
With their third loss in a row, the Wizards' record fell to 34-41 and their playoff chances all but vanished. With seven games remaining in the regular season, the Wizards are 10th in the Eastern Conference and a full three games behind Indiana for the eighth and last playoff spot. Toronto is ninth.
Despite the Wizards' predicament, no one in the locker room wanted to admit that now there is nothing more to play for.
"The door ain't going to get shut until it's shut," said Courtney Alexander, who led the Wizards with 22 points. "Obviously, we've got to win just about every game left at this point. We're going to keep fighting, man, and hope that the chips fall in the right way."
That's pretty much what has to happen, because the Wizards are quickly running out of games and opportunities. And it won't get any easier tomorrow when they play at Charlotte. A loss there would drop Washington's record to 8-21 since the All-Star break.
The Wizards were light and loose in the locker room before the game in spite of the news that Jordan was done for the season. And they got off to a decent start early on, taking a 16-11 lead on Richard Hamilton's 16-footer with about six minutes left in the first quarter.
And then they buckled.
The Bucks outscored the Wizards 23-2 the rest of the quarter for a 34-18 lead. This was the beginning of what became a 37-8 Milwaukee run.
Glenn Robinson was the biggest factor in the outburst, notching 22 of his team season-high 38 points before halftime. And although the Wizards did manage to keep the Bucks' field-goal percentage below 50 percent in the first half (48.7), Milwaukee got to 51 percent by the end of the game.
"We came out and competed in the second half, but our defense is really bad," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "We just can't guard. If we can't guard, we can't beat anybody. I thought when they made their run, we gave them no resistance. They had whatever they wanted."
This was particularly true of the fourth quarter when the Bucks made 12 of 19 shots (63.2 percent) and were never really threatened.
Sam Cassell finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Bucks (39-35), who were without injured leading scorer Ray Allen. Anthony Mason added 15.
Hamilton, ejected for a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter, had 20, and he and Alexander scored all but seven of the starters' 41 points.
The Wizards have played 14 games without Jordan this season, going 4-10. But Jordan was, as Collins often reminded people, a safety blanket who was primarily responsible for the Wizards surpassing last season's 19 victories on Jan. 24.
The Milwaukee team the Wizards faced last not bore no resemblance to the team that came up one game short of the NBA Finals last season. The Bucks began last night in a three-way tie for the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff pool. They have spent much of the season berating one another and exchanging barbs with coach George Karl.
And before last night's game they were in need of a serious jolt, having lost eight of their last 10 games and three in a row.


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