- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Allen Iverson has spoken about Michael Jordan in respectful tones ever since Jordan ended his retirement. But last night for Iverson, with his mother watching from the stands in a sold-out MCI Center, was not about respect it was about winning.

Iverson made sure that the Sixers would not fall to the Wizards, scoring 22 of his game-high 34 points in the second half to lead Philadelphia (20-21) to a 91-84 victory in front of 20,674.

The loss propelled the 76ers ahead of the Wizards (19-20) in the Atlantic Division by one percentage point. It also marks the first time the Wizards have fallen under .500 since they were 11-12 on Dec. 16. The Wizards have now lost six of their last seven games.

Jordan led the Wizards with 30 points. However, he scored just two points in the second half when the 76ers stepped up their defense and utilized a zone far more frequently.

"In the second half they figured out that I was more or less tired and the defense focused on zoning up on me and forcing everyone else to make shots. It kind of caught us off guard and we were not able to move the ball properly," said Jordan. "We got in disarray and never could find any kind of rhythm. Their defense kicked it up a notch in the second half. You've got to give them credit for that. They really sacrificed their defense in the second half to take me totally out of the game."

Put an emphasis on totally. Jordan was 1-for-8 from the field after halftime, his lone basket coming on a dunk. Reserve guard Tyronn Lue added 19 points.

Philadelphia point guard Eric Snow added 19 points, and reserve guard Aaron McKie scored all of his 18 points after the first quarter.

"Eric Snow and Aaron McKie killed us," Wizards coach Doug Collins said.

Once again the Wizards were shorthanded. They played their 15th game in a row without Richard Hamilton, and Christian Laettner was out with a charlie horse. Philadelphia was without starting power forward Derrick Coleman.

"Our guys are exhausted, they're dead," Collins said. "They're sitting in their lockers now. We've played undermanned. But with that said, I'm not giving any excuses but our guys are exhausted. They're physically tired, they're emotionally tired."

The defensive job the Sixers did on Jordan and his mates in the second half proved to be the difference. Washington made just 14 field goals after intermission.

Said Iverson: "In the second half we just zoned up on him and made other people make shots." Or miss them.

In recent years, games with the 76ers have been of little significance at this point in the season because the Wizards have usually been a non-factor.

But the Wizards had taken the first two meetings of the season from the Sixers, and last night a victory would have sent a strong message to a team they will likely be jockeying with for a playoff position in the spring.

But it was Iverson who sent the message.

After watching Jordan scorch the 76ers for 28 points in the first half, he was as quiet as a silent movie in the second half, when he made one of eight shots from the field.

Down by 82-66 in the fourth, the Wizards rallied to within 82-75 with 3:27 left.

Following a timeout, the teams traded baskets. But McKie finished off the Wizards when his 3-pointer restored the lead to 87-77.

Jordan, who has struggled from the floor in recent nights he was 23-for-65 from the field in the three previous games had no problems shredding the 76ers in the first quarter. Making mostly jump shots, he scored 19 of the Wizards' 23 points while making nine of 14 shots from the field.

It didn't hurt that the 76ers played little defense of their own to go along with a poor offensive beginning. Iverson led the Sixers with nine points in the quarter, but Philadelphia made just 40 percent of its shots.

With Jordan on the court the Wizards managed a four-point lead after one quarter. However, when he didn't return at the start of the second quarter they were, at least for a moment, even better.

The Wizards used a pair of Lue baskets one of them a 3-pointer and another hoop from Tyrone Nesby, to expand a 25-23 lead to their biggest lead of the first half, 32-23.

McKie got the 76ers right back in it, though. Held scoreless in the first quarter, McKie suddenly found his range in the second when he scored 13 points, including three 3-pointers.

But the first half belonged to Jordan. When he checked back in the game, Jordan picked right back up where he left off. He connected on all but one of his five shots in the quarter and the Wizards led 46-45 at the break.

But Washington, playing its second game in as many nights, struggled in the third quarter. Jordan, who had been so hot in the first half, missed all five of his shots in the quarter.

As a unit the Wizards made just six field goals in the quarter and shot a paltry 37.5 percent from the floor. They also committed seven turnovers that led to 10 points.

The opposite was true for the 76ers. With Iverson scoring 14 points in the quarter, Philadelphia outscored the Wizards 26-16 to lead by 71-62 going into the fourth.

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