- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

Michael Jordan and Jalen Rose decided that one good shove deserved another late in the game on Fun Street yesterday.
This resulted in technical fouls for both parties, the departure of Rose, and the usual pleas of manhood following the Wizards' 109-89 victory over the Pacers.
It was all in the spirit of a one-sided game, plus a history of bad feelings between Jordan and the Pacers going back to 1998, when Jordan and the Bulls eliminated the Pacers in seven games in the Eastern Conference finals. Otherwise, the history between the two franchises, the Wizards and Pacers, has been mostly predictable. The Pacers came into the game having won 15 of their last 16 meetings with the Wizards, including two games earlier in the season. The last one, Dec.27, was notable only because of Jordan's six-point performance.
Rose was working on an ample dose of frustration by the time he and Jordan found themselves struggling for position underneath the basket. Rose already had earned a technical foul late in the third quarter after he dunked the ball and then, while cupping his hand to his ear, implored Richard Hamilton to offer his analysis.
"I don't hear you talking now," Rose said.
To which Hamilton said later: "There was a whole lot of stuff going on in that game."
Reggie Miller provided some of the stuff, 12 points in the box score and an equal number of undetected elbows at least.
"Certain teams feel like they have to play you physical," Jordan said. "We've had some battles over the years. Some things got out of hand. This is nothing new."
The Pacers have tumbled hard since advancing to the NBA Finals in 2000. They are now one of the many mid-level teams in the Eastern Conference with modest playoff prospects. Their parts are seemingly better than their sum, even if one of their parts, Al Harrington, is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Rose and Jordan came by their annoyance after spending much of the game around one another, some of their body-to-body actions less hospitable than others.
As Wizards coach Doug Collins said: "There was a little chippiness out there."
That is hockeyspeak for a level of aggressiveness just below goonery.
"It worked out well for us," Collins said, meaning Rose's premature shower.
For two players who spend most of their time on the perimeter, Rose and Jordan ended up in an odd place, locked in struggle in the three-second lane.
Jordan shoved Rose out of the way before following up a miss to push the Wizards in front by 14 points with 4:18 left.
Then Rose pushed Jordan in return.
Then Jordan went to Rose seeking a clarification.
"If that's the way you want to play the game, then let's play it that way," Jordan said. "I have no problem with that."
An interpretation from Rose was unnecessary with the three referees in place.
"He probably was tired of me being in his face all day, just like I was tired of him trying to score on me," Rose said. "He wasn't going to back down. I wasn't going to back down."
Testosterone is an awful thing to waste in the locker room.
"I think we were both trying to gain some edges, and it went too far," Jordan said. "I didn't expect us to get technical fouls."
It was a day of the unexpected, starting with the 20-point outcome in the home team's favor.
The Pacers also didn't expect Jordan to be so accommodating to his teammates in the first half. Jordan finished with 23 points, 17 in the second half, after attempting only seven shots in the first half.
That was by design, Jordan said, intended to soften the Pacers' defensive focus on him. With Hamilton regaining his pre-injury form, the strategy was effective. The Wizards scored 49 points in the first 24 minutes, with Jordan contributing only six.
As Jordan imposed his will on the game in the second half, Rose and the Pacers lost their capacity to be competitive.
Cup your hand to your ear.
Can you hear them?
The Pacers are not talking now, just whimpering.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide