- The Washington Times - Monday, March 25, 2002

TORONTO There have been some golden moments this season with the game clock ticking down, and thanks to the heroics of Michael Jordan, the Washington Wizards have walked off the court in mirthful celebration after most of them.
Yesterday's game in Toronto, however, was not one of those.
Jordan, who has broken the hearts of the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Phoenix Suns on last-second jumpers this season, failed to replicate that ending against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre yesterday. He missed what would have been a game-winning jumper as time ran out against the Raptors in a 92-91 setback.
As far as losses go, this one was as damaging as could be to the playoff hopes of the Wizards (32-38), who are now tied with the Raptors (32-38) for ninth in the Eastern Conference, 3 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot.
The loss came against a Toronto team that seemingly has accepted it will not reach the playoffs even though it is tied with the Wizards. The Raptors, who last year took Philadelphia to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, had lost nine consecutive home games and 17 of 20 games overall since the All-Star break before yesterday.
Adding injury to insult, star guard Vince Carter, scheduled to have offseason knee surgery, will sit out the rest of the season. Incidentally, the Raptors are now 2-0 without Carter, who has drawn most of the criticism for the team's collapse.
On Jordan's miss a dead-on 17-footer over former Georgetown player Jerome Williams the stage seemed set for another Wizards win. The play, triggered from the sideline with 15.7 seconds left and the Wizards trailing by one point, was just what Washington wanted. Jordan took the ball from Chris Whitney just to the right of the free throw line, charged left and pulled up. The ball bounced in and out of the rim before falling off, causing the crowd of 19,800 to erupt as if a playoff game had been won.
Little-used guard Jermaine Jackson was so thrilled with the outcome he jumped up and celebrated on the scorer's table.
"It was an isolation," said Jordan, who scored 14 points on 6-for-17 shooting. "I felt like I could get a shot off. I had a good look. It went in and out. I made my share, and I miss my share."
Jordan and the Wizards were not pleased, however, with the play that preceded that one. On that possession, Jordan thought he was fouled by Williams as he attempted to gather a rebound under the Raptors' basket. The ball was pried from his hands and found its way to Toronto center Antonio Davis (17 points, nine rebounds), who scored the game-winning layup.
"Look at the replay," said Jordan, who experienced back spasms in the fourth quarter. "That rebound was very important. Obviously I thought I got fouled."
Surprisingly, Williams agreed.
"He could have got a foul called on that play," Williams said. "However, today we were on the receiving end."
The Raptors would have been on the receiving end of another loss had it not been for the play of guard Morris Peterson. Peterson canned six 3-pointers accounting for all but one of his field goals and finished with a game-high 26 points.
Fifteen of Peterson's points came in the second half, when the Wizards, led by Richard Hamilton's team-high 21 points, outplayed the Raptors. Perhaps more than anything, the Raptors' ability to get to the free throw line 22-for-28 compared to the Wizards' 16-for-17 proved the difference.
Trailing 61-49 with 5:47 left in the third quarter, the Wizards used a 13-0 run to take a one-point lead late in the quarter. Tyrone Nesby (12 points, five rebounds) helped spark that comeback by making all four of his field goals in the quarter.
The Wizards pushed that lead to seven points in the fourth quarter and didn't relinquish it until Davis made his layup.
"I thought he got fouled," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "He got him on the hand, but they didn't call it, so there is nothing that I can really say to you. He got fouled. We've had about four or five of those this year that haven't gone our way. It's been pretty frustrating."
What will be more frustrating, though, will be if the Wizards look back on this as the game that put them in the draft lottery instead of the playoffs.
"It's a big game," Jordan said. "I hope this game doesn't come back to haunt us when you talk about making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. It could very well. But still we've got 12 games left. Let's just play."


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