- The Washington Times - Friday, November 1, 2002

No one saw this coming.
Loaded with new talent but still trying to feel each other out, the Washington Wizards entered their home opener optimistic they would leave their fitful first game behind them.
In about as drastic a 24-hour turnaround as seen in the NBA, the Wizards buried their shoddy opening night performance Wednesday by demolishing the Boston Celtics 114-69 last night before a sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.
The Wizards played near-flawless basketball in recording the third-largest margin of victory in franchise history and handed the NBA's most storied franchise the worst loss in its 56-year history.
The Wizards bolted to an 18-point halftime lead and continued to pour it on as the game got out of hand and Boston pulled its regulars. Still, they shocked even themselves.
"Trust me, I never in a million years imagined this would happen tonight," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "I had breakfast with my wife this morning and said, 'I hope we score 70 points tonight, two more than last night at least show some improvement in our home opener.' I don't know what to say. That's as good as I've had a team play."
Several players starred for the Wizards namely Jerry Stackhouse, who missed a triple-double by three rebounds, and Michael Jordan, who logged an extremely productive 21 minutes by scoring 21 points. He also spearheaded the Wizards' two big runs in the game, at the end of the second and third quarters.
The blowout coalesced, however, around defense and rebounding. The Wizards dominated on the glass 59-31 and forced Boston into the identical shooting percentage that Washington had put up Wednesday night: 29.6 percent.
"We got some stops, got some easy baskets, some layups," Stackhouse said. "And our big guys, they set the tone for us. Whenever they set the tone for us, it gives us perimeter guys freedom to do a lot of good things."
The biggest of big guys for the second straight night was Kwame Brown, who followed up the coming-out party he held Wednesday by recording a career highs in points (20) and, for the second consecutive night, blocks (six).
Brown has not simply blocked shots he's smacked them volleyball-spike style, and in doing so established himself as a defensive force to be reckoned with in the post. He had four blocks in the first quarter, several of which may have left hand imprints on the leather, and the crowd fed off of his energy and hustle early and throughout the game.
"I brought a presence last night, and I know Coach was looking for me to bring a presence tonight," Brown said. "Last year I probably would have taken [last night] off."
Stackhouse nearly recorded the franchise's first triple-double in 3 seasons with 22 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Also in the mix was Tyronn Lue, who shook off a poor shooting opener to contribute 10 points and five assists off the bench, and Jared Jeffries, who was active defensively and on the glass and finished with 12 points and five rebounds.
The Wizards left behind the offensive maladies that plagued them Wednesday night in Toronto, using a 34-19 advantage in the second quarter to seize control of the game. They reached Wednesday's point total (68) halfway through the third quarter.
After the Celtics closed to 32-29 with 8:43 left in the second quarter, it was all Wizards, with the help of a big boost from sixth man Jordan.
In the final 2:09 of the period, Jordan scored six points and added a pair of steals and an assist in a 13-4 run that extended the lead from nine points to 58-40.
With 3:35 left in the third quarter, it was 72-56. Then the Wizards went on another 13-4 run to end the quarter, with Jordan getting the last six points of the spurt. The Wizards' biggest lead was the final margin.
Any critics who regarded Jordan's 4-for-14, eight-point, blown-breakaway-dunk outing in the season opener as a mark of decline may have reconsidered. He also was in fine form defensively, especially at the end of the first half. After hitting a pair of free throws with 5.5 seconds to go, Jordan lurked in the backcourt and swiped Antoine Walker's inbounds pass, pump-faked to entice Paul Pierce to fly past him, and canned a 20-foot jump shot.
Jordan and Collins credited the fact that Jordan first entered the game with 6:08 to go in the first quarter, two minutes earlier than Collins had inserted him during his preseason appearances and Wednesday night. It allowed Jordan to get into the game more quickly.
"Getting in two minutes earlier helps me get in the flow; it's easy to find a rhythm," said Jordan, who also had five assists. "In terms of what we all envisioned when we put this team together, tonight it all worked perfectly where the tandem was working well, the young kids gave us a big lift, our veteran guys gave us a big lift. We played extremely well. I'd like to have 55 more of these."
The Celtics certainly wouldn't. Boston stars Pierce and Walker combined to shoot 8-for-32 from the floor for a combined 24 points.

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