- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 7, 2002

Without Michael Jordan in the lineup there is no question that the Washington Wizards get up and down the court better.
That doesn't make them a better team after all, they're 2-4 without Jordan heading into tonight's game against Detroit at MCI Center just a different team.
That was clearly the case Tuesday night, when the Wizards posted their second victory in a row after dropping seven straight games and nine of 10 since the All-Star Game. With Jordan in the locker room, the Wizards thumped his former team, the Chicago Bulls. In fact, the Wizards posted season highs in points (115) and field goal percentage (57).
Along the way, Courtney Alexander rammed home alley-oop dunks, Jahidi White who gets up and down the court well for a 290-pounder had a reverse layup, and, in general, the team simply ran over the horrendous Bulls.
The game was a stark contrast to the style of play the Wizards used in ringing up victories with Jordan in the lineup. Then, because Jordan was so good at taking his man down low, the Wizards preferred to throw the ball into the post and let Jordan get his own shot, find a cutting teammate or pass the ball out to the perimeter.
Not these days. Coach Doug Collins concedes that without the team's best post-up player, the Wizards must push the ball down their opponents' throats and not give them a chance to set up on defense.
No one is complaining.
"That's our style of play," said Alexander, who finally has broken out with 58 points the last two games. "That's the way we like to play, getting up and down the court and trying to generate easy baskets, crowd excitement and things of that nature. We're not old, so we want to play. We want to run."
For now, they are having fun. And as long as they don't start turning the ball over in bunches they are third in the league with 12.5 turnovers a game Collins won't rein them in.
"Everybody loves to run," Collins said. "But if we're going to push the ball, I don't want this to be a turnover fest, because then it becomes fool's gold. If we keep our turnovers down, I want us to push the ball. Early offense is fun to play."
The Wizards, 2-2 since Jordan went on the injured list after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, have scored at least 101 points in three of those games. Before that the Wizards had topped 100 points just once in the last 10 games, and that came against a Sacramento team that was at the end of an East Coast road trip and heading into the All-Star break.
The Wizards are in an interesting situation. They are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997. However, they are also trying to take a long look at players to figure out who fits into the long-range plan. Jordan won't play beyond next season.
"Our goal is to make the playoffs, and we'd love to do that," Collins said. "At the same time, with Michael not playing, we're getting a good look at who our guys are now. He's not going to be able to play forever. This is a great chance for guys to show what they can do."
Tonight's game is pivotal. The Wizards, who are tied for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot, have struggled mightily against Central Division-leader Detroit (34-24). The Pistons have won all three regular-season meetings. Conversely, a win by the Wizards would get their record back to .500 for the first time since Feb.23.
"They've given us a hard time this season, a real hard time," Collins said. "A win against them would be great for us."


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