- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2002

CLEVELAND For the first time this season, Michael Jordan returned to the home arena of the team he has tormented.
As he does in just about every arena, Jordan had camera bulbs flashing from many of the announced 20,562 at Gund Arena, and they flickered especially on two jumpers he swished in the fourth quarter. For fans of the home team, that's about where the photo opportunities began and ended last night.
In a game that could at best be described as lacking a flow, the Washington Wizards rode some solid defense and another big night from Jerry Stackhouse to defeat the mediocre Cleveland Cavaliers 93-79 for their third straight victory and first on the road this season.
The game had more than its share of fumbled passes, turnovers and poor shots; in fairness, both teams were playing their fourth game in five nights. The Wizards (4-3) also were playing on the road and coming off an emotional, last-second victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
"[Friday] night's game didn't mean anything if we didn't come in here and win this game tonight," said Stackhouse, who scored 18 of his game-high 27 points in the first half.
The Wizards made it meaningful but only because they got much-needed minutes and points from reserves when they spelled tired starters. Their guards especially picked up the slack; Tyronn Lue chalked up eight first-half points and three assists before finishing with 12 points, and Juan Dixon connected on all three of his field goal attempts, getting his earliest action of the season when he entered to start the second quarter. Along with Jordan and Jared Jeffries (nine points), the pair helped give the Wizards' bench a 39-11 scoring advantage on their Cleveland counterparts.
"I talked about it with the guys before the game I said, 'Guys, I'm going to go to the bench, and I'm going to need you,'" Wizards coach Doug Collins said. " We had some guys play very, very well off the bench, and I thought that was the difference in the game."
Of course, chief among the Wizards' bench players is Cavaliers-killer Jordan, who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and a team-leading six assists in 31 minutes. Cleveland provided several of the most memorable moments of his career, among them his career-high 69-point game, his buzzer-beating, playoff-series-winning jump shot over Craig Ehlo and, most recently, his game-winning jumper last season.
"I like Cleveland," Jordan said with a smile, "even though they don't like me. I like the opportunities, the challenges that I've had here, the games I've had here."
Though they blew out the Lakers on Tuesday night, the Cavaliers (2-5) looked cavalier in shooting 34.5 percent and committing 17 turnovers. Main scoring options Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ricky Davis scored 19 points apiece but combined to shoot 11-for-39 thanks in part to some tough defense inside by the Wizards.
"They let the post players play a little dirty down there," Kwame Brown said. "We did a good job on Ilgauskas but in the fourth quarter let him get going."
The Wizards got great production out of their big men in defeating the Cavaliers on Wednesday, when Brendan Haywood, Brown, Etan Thomas and Jeffries combined for 33 points and 19 rebounds.
The four frontcourt players didn't nearly come close to their Wednesday production through the first 24 minutes last night, posting five points on 1-for-6 shooting with 10 rebounds in the first half. Haywood played 16 scoreless first-half minutes and finished the game with four points on 1-for-6 shooting, while Brown (10 points) didn't have a real impact on the game until the fourth quarter.
The Wizards used a 16-4 third-quarter run to break a 47-47 tie and finally provide some separation between themselves and the Cavaliers, seemingly destined for the lottery at the end of the season and a chance at landing near-consensus No. 1 overall choice and Akron, Ohio, high-school phenom LeBron James.
The Wizards stretched their lead to 81-66 with 5:05 to go in the game, but they continued an early season trend of allowing their opponents to come back when Cleveland cut the lead to 85-79 with 1:59 remaining. Brown and Stackhouse each knocked down a pair of free throws to push the lead back to a safe margin.
With the Wizards trailing 36-35 and 3:44 to go until halftime, Stackhouse helped ignite a sagging Wizards attack. First, he took a Larry Hughes outlet pass and slammed it home on the other end. After a Jordan bucket, Stackhouse knocked down a 3-pointer for a 42-38 Wizards lead, then made one of two free throws just his fourth miss in 60 attempts this season. The Wizards led 43-40 at halftime on the strength of Stackhouse's 7-for-11 shooting from the floor.
"Teams come out and try to play me 1-on-1 with late rotations, then I'm going to attack them every time," Stackhouse said.
The Cavaliers' Smush Parker heard some boos after the game when, speaking in an interview over the P.A. system, he mentioned that Jordan was "just another player to me."
Collins continued to adjust his big man rotation according to the opponent, mainly playing Haywood and Brown while bringing Jeffries and Thomas in off the bench. Christian Laettner and Charles Oakley (for the sixth consecutive game) did not play.

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