Michael Jordan wanted to play down last night’s meeting between himself and Scottie Pippen, former teammates who together plowed through the NBA to lead the Chicago Bulls to six championships.
But after Pippen’s new team, the Portland Trail Blazers, humiliated both Jordan and his Washington Wizards teammates 98-79 at MCI Center, Jordan was clearly disappointed his guys didn’t make a better showing of it.
“I know Pip,” Jordan said. “Believe me, I wanted to come out and play well. But his horses were ready, and my mules were sick. So you take it, and you move on with it. Unfortunately, we didn’t play the type of game we wanted to play tonight.”
No, they didn’t. In fact, the Wizards played a type of game so bad no one had anything positive to say afterward. The loss destroyed any traces of the momentum they built in winning three of their last four games.
It comes down to this: The Wizards played no defense, didn’t execute on offense and were completely embarrassed by a team that has made more news off the court than it has on it this season. But the Wizards’ lack of effort which resulted in their worst beating of the season acted as a balm for anything the Blazers might be experiencing. The Blazers have won seven of their last 10 games and have beaten the Wizards eight straight times dating to March 24, 1998.
It wasn’t a complete statistical nightmare, but the one stat that tells the story was the Blazers’ dominance in points in the paint, 50-12. Most of the baskets by the Blazers were undefended layups, which left Jordan wondering aloud how he and his teammates even could consider collecting their checks for this outing.
“It was a sad, sad game we played.” said Jordan, who finished with 14 points and five rebounds. “The most unfortunate thing is we can’t take our checks and give them to the fans. That’s something that was really embarrassing for them to watch. Unfortunately, they had to pay to see it.”
Portland led by 26 points with a little more than 10 minutes to go, and the Wizards, who never led, never got closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
Portland (10-9) got double-digit scoring from six players, led by Pippen and Derek Anderson with 14. Larry Hughes led the Wizards with 17 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth-consecutive double-double.
After the game the Wizards maintained this was a game they needed to get out of their systems, a game the Blazers were just more prepared to win.
“We’ve just got to forget about it,” said Jerry Stackhouse, who scored 14 points but made just seven of 17 shots. “I think this was a game that every team has a few times in the year. You come out and nothing seems to be working right and the other team has got it going. Unfortunately, it was a night at home and a night leading into a trip for us. We’ve just got to forget about it and move on.”
Wizards coach Doug Collins saw it a little bit differently; in fact, he saw it coming. He said the Wizards, who head to New Jersey on Friday for the first of three consecutive road games, had one of their worst practices of the season Monday and didn’t seem prepared to play at yesterday morning’s shootaround.
Earlier in the season, when the Wizards looked bad, Collins stepped forward and took the hit for the team. But after watching last night’s exhibition, Collins would not give his team that escape.
“My job is to teach execution,” Collins said. “Energy and effort come from the players; execution comes from the coach. If they count on me to rev them up, then that’s wrong. Then all of a sudden I’m out there trying to get them charged up, and you guys are writing, ‘Look at that flaming fool out there running up and down the sidelines.’”