- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2003

NEW ORLEANS The moment belonged to Michael Jordan, the night belonged to the New Orleans Hornets and the fight was pretty much a draw.

Looking at times like the team some felt would dominate the Eastern Conference, the Hornets toyed with the Washington Wizards last night at New Orleans Arena, building a 22-point third-quarter lead and cruising to a 103-94 victory.

The loss came on a night when Jordan became the third-leading scorer in NBA history, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain. Jordan, who scored just two points in the second half, finished with 18 to give him 31,424 for his career

"For me personally, I wasn't really aware of it," Jordan said. "I was honestly thinking about winning this game. The thing about stats is that they define you 20 years after the game. People will look at them and say, 'This guy must have been pretty good 20 years ago.' But the most important thing is the game, and I felt that [the Hornets were] a little more prepared to play than us, and they came out and showed it."

The game got out of hand in the third quarter when the Hornets outscored the Wizards 29-19 to all but put the game away. And late in the quarter, when New Orleans (23-20) was piling it on the Wizards (21-21), tempers began to flare.

With 53.9 seconds left in the quarter, Washington's Charles Oakley and P.J. Brown got tangled up in front of the Hornets' basket. It appeared as if Brown pulled Oakley down to the ground, and as the two rolled around on the court, Oakley appeared to throw a punch at Brown a player with whom he feuded when he was with the New York Knicks and Brown played for the Miami Heat.

Both Washington coach Doug Collins and New Orleans coach Paul Silas left the bench as the two antagonists were eventually pulled from a mini-scrum of players, most of whom appeared to be in peacemaker roles. If Oakley or Brown is found to have thrown a punch, a league fine will come down.

"It was just one of those things that happen," Oakley said. "He pushed on my back, he was mouthing off. I blocked him out, and he came at me.

The Wizards whittled their deficit to 91-81 with nearly eight minutes to play, but the Hornets easily kept them at bay with back-to-back baskets that restored the lead to 95-81

Jamal Mashburn finished with 24 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to lead four Hornets in double-figures scoring. David Wesley added 19 points, and Jamal Magloire had 16 points and 14 rebounds as New Orleans outrebounded the Wizards 46-32.

Playing for the first time in four games after recovering from an injured left groin, Jerry Stackhouse led the Wizards with 26 points and nine assists.

Jordan, who scored 25 points in the Wizards' win over Denver on Monday, entered the game needing 14 points to surpass Chamberlain. Jordan was hot early, scoring 10 points in the first quarter as the Wizards made 65 percent of their field goal attempts. But Wesley offset anything Jordan did with 13 points of his own including a trifecta of 3-pointers to help the Hornets to a 31-28 lead at the end of one quarter.

Jordan scored his 12th point on a baseline jumper with 4:47 left in the second, a basket that the Wizards sorely needed because New Orleans had just taken a 48-39 lead on George Lynch's dunk.

Shortly thereafter, Jordan surpassed Chamberlain when he canned a 10-foot fade-away jumper. At the time of Jordan's basket, which drew a ovation of nearly a minute, New Orleans had extended its lead to 55-43.

Jordan scored again before the half ended to give him 16 points in the first half on 8-for-14 shooting from the floor. The Wizards also got 13 points from Stackhouse.

Overall, Washington shot a blistering 56.4 percent from the floor in he first half, compared with the Hornets' 52.3 percent. But the Hornets were overpowering on the inside against Washington, pounding it on the boards in much the same manner as Golden State did in the second half of its 104-99 upset of the Wizards on Jan.10.

In Stackhouse's absence, the Wizards went 2-2. And the team got a scare in the second quarter last night when its leading scorer was hit around the left eye and required two stitches to close a wound that streamed blood.

Although the Wizards have been winning games in recent days, they have been losing the battle to various colds and ailments. Last week Jordan was visibly weakened by a virus, and Larry Hughes was unable to finish a game against Philadelphia because of a stomach virus.

Last night it was starting power forward Christian Laettner's turn to be felled by a bug. Laettner was replaced in the starting lineup by Oakley making the first start of his Wizards career when the former Duke star fell sick at the team's morning shootaround with a stomach condition that prevented him from coming to the arena.

Before the game Collins said he was going to use Oakley early, then insert rookie Kwame Brown. However, Oakley played well enough in the first quarter to earn all of the available minutes at power forward.

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