- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2002

Jason Kidd is garnering a lot of attention as a potential MVP candidate, mostly because of the way he has turned the moribund New Jersey Nets into the cream of the Eastern Conference.
But what tends to get overlooked is how well Kidd, who led the Nets to a 93-82 victory over the Washington Wizards last night, plays defense.
Kidd finished with 30 points, eight assists and seven rebounds at MCI Center as the Nets improved their Eastern Conference-leading record to 36-17. But what can't be ignored is the way he shut down Michael Jordan in the fourth quarter.
Jordan, who returned to the Wizards' lineup after a bum right knee sidelined him the night before in Detroit, finished with 16 points on 7-for-17 shooting. But Kidd held Jordan without a point and without a shot in the nine minutes he played in the fourth quarter.
"I never back down from a challenge. I was just trying to make it difficult," Kidd said. "I was not going to stop him. You just try to make it as difficult as you can, as tough as you can."
Kidd was at his best at the offensive end, especially when he played a part in every single point during a 17-2 run that carried over into the fourth and left the Wizards (27-26) a beaten team.
"You see what he's done," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "He's given that team a real swagger. Everybody is better. That's the sign of a real great player. And he's shooting 38 percent on the season, and nobody cares about that."
What is of more concern to Collins is the way his team is playing, and right now that isn't good. The Wizards are getting very little help underneath the basket from their big people and they have, for all intent and purpose, turned into almost exclusively a jump-shooting team.
When the teams last played Jan. 16, the Wizards were beaten 111-67. In that game the Nets finished with 31 fastbreak points compared to zero for the Wizards. Last night the Wizards matched that debacle, this time losing the fastbreak contest 27-0.
"Today I don't think any of us were in sync," Jordan said. "I certainly didn't have any rhythm and I did get a little tired because I hadn't played. But we've got plenty of time to get ourselves back in rhythm. We've just got to keep working at it."
Washington's Richard Hamilton finished with 15 points but was 1-for-5 from the floor in the second half, when he scored just six points. Hubert Davis came off the bench to score 12 points, and Popeye Jones collected 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Rookie center Brendan Haywood suffered a knee injury that is not believed to be serious. He played eight minutes and was held without a point.
Kidd got plenty of help. Backcourt partner Kerry Kittles finished with 20 points while making seven of 12 field goals. Keith Van Horn added 17 points, and rookie Richard Jefferson came off the bench to make all but one of his field goal attempts and finish with 11 points.
New Jersey lost starting center Todd MacCulloch in the first quarter because of an injury to his left foot.
The Nets' victory ranks as a sort of personal achievement for the organization, which has had very little success against Jordan. It ended a string of 23 consecutive games in which the Nets had lost on the road against a Jordan team.
The Wizards played decently in the first quarter, but they sputtered in the second. While the Nets made half of their 18 field goals, Washington, lofting mostly perimeter shots, made seven of 20 shots from the floor. As a result, Jordan scored eight of the Wizards' 17 points and Washington trailed at the half 46-39.
Washington played with significantly more energy for most of the third quarter. As a result, the Wizards eventually narrowed the Nets' lead to 66-63 late in the third and appeared to be gaining momentum. But the Nets got two cheap baskets to end the quarter, an open jumper by Lucious Harris and a running 40-footer at the buzzer that restored the lead to 69-63
This carried over into the fourth quarter and, in what seemed like a blur, the 17-2 run gave the Nets an 81-65 lead and siphoned the life from the Wizards..
"That was crucial," Jones said. "They put it together in that stretch and started playing with a lot of energy. We didn't match their intensity. That's something we've been doing all year long until recently. We can't afford to play this way or we're going to have more problems."

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