- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 2, 2003

With the Washington Wizards in the throes of doubt and dealing with a whole lot of hurt, Michael Jordan broke out a game from the past last night at MCI Center.
Jordan scored a season-high 45 points and the Wizards rallied from a 11-point deficit in the second half to defeat the New Orleans Hornets 109-104.
A special performance by Jordan inspired a team desperately trying to stay in the playoff chase. The team has been in a free-fall mode since losing at home to the half-roster of the Toronto Raptors Jan.14.
"Michael was unbelievable," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "He had that bounce in his step at the shootaround. He was frisky out there. He got us off to a great start and gave us the confidence to win the game."
Jordan played 44 minutes, all 24 minutes in the second half, and had six assists to go with his scoring binge.
"I didn't ask him how he was at halftime, and I wasn't about to take him out in the second half," Collins said.
With Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes out of the lineup, Jordan felt compelled to be active on offense at the outset. Jordan attacked the basket with an attitude, one indication that his 39-year-old legs were feeling especially good on this night.
Jordan had 23 points in the first half, 16 in the first quarter, and still the Wizards trailed 51-46 at halftime. Bryon Russell missed a 3-point attempt with seconds left in the half, and Jamal Mashburn canned a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Hornets the momentum.
The Wizards led by as many as 10 points in the first quarter, which merely followed the team's recent trend of building huge early leads and squandering them as the game progressed.
As much as the Wizards were hurt by the absence of Stackhouse and Hughes, the Hornets were playing without Baron Davis, sidelined because of a knee injury. Center Elden Campbell also was held from the starting lineup because of a strained neck muscle.
Other than Jordan, the Wizards struggled to find offense. When Jordan left the game at the 9:53 mark in the second quarter, the Wizards held a six-point lead. By the time Jordan returned at 5:46, the Wizards were down by four points.
Russell exhibited some flashes of activity after showing some signs of life in Milwaukee. His has been a mostly dormant season: from starter to role player to forgotten member of the team. He played well against his old team, the Utah Jazz, in November but has struggled otherwise. He came into the game shooting .355 percent overall and .327 percent from the 3-point arc.
One sequence early in the third quarter seemed to capture the torment of the Wizards. Working in transition, Jordan made a nice dump pass to Christian Laettner, who whipped a nifty behind-the-back pass to Brendan Haywood. Before Haywood could gather himself to dunk the ball, however, the defense was able to recover and Haywood forced up a weak-looking shot from about 2 feet. Worse, David Wesley followed the Haywood miss with a 3-pointer to put the Hornets up 11 points.
As good as Jordan was in reprising some of his old stuff, Mashburn was equally efficient for the Hornets and finished with 39 points.
With a collection of youngsters and Jordan, the Wizards mounted a game-turning charge in the fourth quarter. The lineup included Tyronn Lue, Juan Dixon, Kwame Brown and Etan Thomas. Each player had a moment or two. Dixon hit a 3-pointer with 8:31 left that allowed the Wizards to pull to 86-85. A short jumper by Lue with 8:09 left pushed the Wizards in front 87-86, their first lead since early in the second quarter.
As it turned out, that was just the beginning for the Wizards. Instead of being the team that can't stand prosperity and loses its balance in the late going, as has been the case lately, the Wizards played the role of the heavy and closed the game with an exclamation point.
"We had energy out there and we played really smart down the stretch," Collins said.
The Wizards had Jordan, too.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide