- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

Maybe Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins should let the team practice without him more often.
"They sent me a message," Collins said of his players. "'Get your butt out of here.' That's all right with me if they play like that."
Collins had to be proud of the Wizards. Just one game removed from losing an atrociously bad game at home against Toronto, they rebounded without their leading scorer to thoroughly outplay Orlando 108-93 last night before a sellout crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.
Following Tuesday's loss to Toronto, Collins gave his players the option of practicing Wednesday. But his stomach was so sour from the Wizards' performance that after he rolled the basketballs out, he went into his office and attended to other matters.
Last night the Wizards (20-19) were playing their second game without Jerry Stackhouse, who injured his left groin and is out at least until Wednesday's game at New Orleans. Nonetheless, the Wizards are now sixth in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind Philadelphia (20-18). The top eight teams make the playoffs.
"We played about as good a game as we could without Jerry in the lineup," Collins said. "I mean, we had 50 points in the paint and 25 second-half points."
Michael Jordan established himself early in Stackhouse's absence, erupting for 20 points in the first quarter and 28 in the half. Jordan finished with 32 points, but he didn't have to overextend himself because so many other players contributed. As the Wizards improved to 14-0 when they score 100 or more points, solid efforts came from everywhere.
Larry Hughes had 22 points, a season-high eight assists and seven rebounds. Brendan Haywood notched a season-high 16 points and grabbed six rebounds. Christian Laettner scored 15 points. Kwame Brown finished with nine points and six boards.
One thing the Wizards did was move Hughes to No.2 guard, his natural position, and Collins was pleased with the results.
"I think you can see now when I do play him as a scoring guard, he can really get that ball to the basket," Collins added. "Tonight when we put [Tyronn] Lue in the game, we really went to him, and he made some big baskets and some nice passes to our big guys.
The Wizards also wanted to outplay the Magic on the inside and they did.
"Coach said this was a night where the big men had to take advantage of the fact that they didn't really have any big men," Haywood said. "In the past, we've gone small when they've gone small. But tonight we wanted to stay big and take advantage of our height inside."
Tracy McGrady led the Magic with 31 points, but he didn't have nearly the same level of support that Jordan did. Mike Miller had 14 points and Pat Garrity added 12.
With Jordan rolling, Washington never trailed in the first half and led by double digits for most of it. That, however, did not last long as Orlando rallied strongly in the third quarter.
This time instead of fading in the ugly fashion that they did against Toronto, the Wizards showed some resolve, stretching the lead to 72-64 with 2:31 seconds left in the third quarter.
In a change of events and habits the Wizards, with Jordan resting most of the time, forged to a 90-74 lead with 8:29 left in the game.
This was shocking because Jordan didn't score a single point in the second half until his jumper from the right wing with 4:20 left made the score 100-83.
"Whenever Mike gets going early, it has a positive effect on everybody," Haywood said. "The whole team just feels like they have to step their game up, too."
It was a nice win against a team that has tormented the Wizards in recent meetings. Orlando had won 12 of the last 16, mostly because the Magic spread the floor well and make it very hard for the Wizards to defend.
Jordan was 7-for-12 from the field in the first half, and his teammates followed in line as they shot 62.5 percent from the floor. Meanwhile, the Magic shot 34.8 percent while committing four turnovers compared to one by the Wizards.
Jordan's high-powered start eventually jacked the Wizards' lead up to 18 points at one point, but the Magic started to cut into it in the second, when they outscored Washington 27-17. Orlando used a 23-11 burst to trim the Wizards' lead to 49-46.
The Magic suffered a blow when Grant Hill, who has been battling a chronically bad left ankle, did not return in the second half after scoring two points and missing all four of his shots.
Jordan's 28 points were the most scored in one half by any Wizard this season. Stackhouse had 25 twice, against Boston and Cleveland.


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