- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

One of the theories embraced by Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins is that the brutal NBA schedule ultimately will yield victories. A fatigued, road-weary team will visit MCI Center and simply won't have the gas to provide much resistance.
It's a nice idea, but the Wizards (5-4) had to battle to the bitter end last night at sold-out (20,173) MCI Center to earn a 105-102 victory over the scrappy Utah Jazz (3-6). The victory was the 300th of Collins' coaching career.
In a game that saw five technical fouls and angry exchanges between players like Michael Jordan and Karl Malone, the toughness and grit of little-used vet Charles Oakley was what drove the Wizards to victory.
Oakley entered the game with 6:56 left with the Wizards reeling after blowing a 21-point lead, mostly because they had no answer for Malone (game-high 26 points).
But after Oakley entered to a thunderous standing ovation, he did the little things that no one else could do like making a crucial steal against John Stockton. And after Oakley checked in, Malone pretty much lost his effectiveness,scoring just three points the rest of the way.
"I had to get somebody in there who could guard Karl Malone, put a body on him and keep him off of the boards," Collins said of Oakley, who finished with just two points. "When I put him in the game, we were on our heels. We were going south fast. He came in and showed the true professional that he is."
Oakley's appearance marked his first appearance since the Wizards opened the season at Toronto last month. Oakley, 39, was added to show the Wizards' young big men how to play the game. But Collins also acknowledged that Oakley would play significant minutes.
"I guess my history over the years, knowing that I'm a tough guy who will play no matter what happens, banged up or whatever, I'm going to go out and play the game," he said. "You're never to old as long as you can play the game."
Washington squandered a 21-point lead and, after a slow start in the fourth quarter, found itself in an 83-86 deficit with just more than seven minutes to play. Washington rallied and led 90-87 following a basket by Tyronn Lue (season-high 18 points).
Following an errant pass by Jerry Stackhouse (25 points) that resulted in a turnover with the Wizards leading 99-96 with 41.7 seconds to play, Utah failed to convert, Stackhouse, fouled during a scrum, then sank a pair of free throws.
After Malone converted a pair of free throws, Stackhouse, fouled again, gave the Wizards a 103-98 lead with 25.7 seconds to go.
Utah had a chance to send the game into overtime on its last possession but failed to get off a shot as Oakley played tough defense on DeShawn Stevenson.
Michael Jordan added 19 points off the bench for the Wizards. Former Utah starter Bryon Russell, who wanted to defeat his old team desperately, added 16.
Washington was effective from the free-throw line, connecting on 36 of 39. This helped to offset the Jazz's 38-29 rebounding advantage.
"Every time we play them, we're going to whip them," said the satisfied Russell following a victory that ended Utah's seven-game winning streak over the Wizards. "We're going to play hard. I'm going to make sure of that."
But even Russell felt the Wizards' victory was attributable to Oakley's tenacity down the stretch.
"Oak came in and was ready to play," Russell said. "He hasn't played all season and he came in the last five minutes of the game and he laid wood. He played Karl Malone like everybody else was supposed to play him."
For Utah, Stockton added 17 points and 11 assists before fouling out.
Washington opened with its best first quarter of the season by putting up 32 points and getting points from six different players while making 11 of 18 from the field.
Utah playing its third road game in four nights all on the East Coast looked sluggish and sloppy. Utah turned the ball over seven times, leading to 12 Washington points.
One seeming indicator that the Wizards were looking to be aggressive was the frequency with which they got to the free throw line. In the first quarter alone, Washington hit nine of 10.
Washington extended its lead when it opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run that made the score 42-21.


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