- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Rip them again, Michael.
Two days after Michael Jordan's scathing postgame comments about his teammates not carrying their share of the load during the stretch run of the season, the Washington Wizards responded with one of their most complete games of the season, beating back Tracy McGrady and the Orlando Magic 106-105 last night at MCI Center.
"The truth hurts," said Jordan, who had 23 points and a career-high nine turnovers. "I think it would be just the opposite for us to sugarcoat it. Sometimes you've just got to say things that sometimes may hurt. But if you hear what I'm saying and you look in the mirror and say maybe he's right, maybe you'll consider the facts and be able to see both sides."
The Wizards (31-33), who closed to within one game of tying Milwaukee (32-32) for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, heard him loud and clear, and no one heard him any better than Jerry Stackhouse. After matching his season low with five points on 1-for-7 shooting Sunday against the New York Knicks, Stackhouse had a monster game, finishing with a team-high 31 points. Stackhouse, who made all 15 of his free throws, also had eight assists.
Stackhouse, who Sunday voiced his displeasure with the way he was used against the Knicks, yesterday indicated he wasn't completely sure that Jordan's comments made a difference when McGrady, the league's leading scorer, finished with 43 points.
"I don't know," Stackhouse said. "It's all about going out and getting it done. The motive, as we all know, is to inspire the play, and I think that the motive worked. I think everybody played inspired. We still made mistakes but for the most part guys were out there playing hard and trying to do the right thing to help us win.
"All I know is we needed it bad. With everything that's been said over the last couple of days we needed to come out and get this win, play hard and we did it. It took all that we had."
The Wizards placed all five starters in double-digit scoring. They made 30 of 32 free throws, which enabled them to win despite being out-shot 11-0 from behind the 3-point arc. And against a team that traditionally moves the ball around well against them, Washington responded with 27 assists, one more than the Magic.
And after McGrady, the next highest Orlando (33-32) scorer was Gordan Giricek, who finished with 14 points.
"We have to take a good feeling away from this," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "We can't look at the things that happened in the past. We have to look forward. The highs and lows of the season are just that, highs and lows. You try to minimize the lows and try to maximize the highs. During the course of the season you're going to have some highs and some equally dramatic lows, especially on a team like ours with so may personalities and dynamics."
Still, as well as they played, the game was not decided until the very end.
With 1:14 remaining, Orlando's Darrell Armstrong was called for a goaltending against Stackhouse, who was fouled on the play and converted the free throw to give Washington a 98-94 lead.
McGrady made one of two free throws at the other end, and Pat Garrity's short jumper with 35.4 to play closed the lead to 98-97 with just more than half a minute to play.
On the Wizards' next possession, Jordan blew by an Orlando defender for a layup that pushed the lead to 100-97 and forced the Magic to call timeout with 25.5 second to play.
The Magic got to within 100-99 on a basket by Drew Gooden, but Stackhouse's two free throws with 18.2 seconds left restored the Wizards' lead to 102-99.
All told, Stackhouse scored the Wizards' last six points from the free throw line.
McGrady, who leads the league in scoring with a 37.1 average, connected on a pair of 3s in the final six seconds.
McGrady, who picked up two fouls early, wasted no time in going at Jordan, whom he likely was facing for the last time in his career. McGrady's aggression resulted in 15 first-quarter points in a variety of different ways, including some long-range hoops as well as a reverse dunk.
Following his lead, Orlando made 68 percent of its shots in the first quarter, but the Wizards didn't stand by idly. Jordan answered McGrady's opening salvo with 10 points himself, and Washington made 59 percent of its shot on the way to a 34-30 lead.
The Wizards extended their lead to 39-32 at the start of the second quarter and looked as if they might get some space between themselves and the Magic, but Orlando got back in it with a nice run of its own.
Down 41-35, Orlando scored eight unanswered points to go ahead 43-41.
McGrady's foul trouble limited him to just six minutes in the second quarter, but he still went on to pour in 21 points by the half.
However, Washington turned its defense up substantially in the second quarter, enough to limit the Magic to just 36 percent shooting. Washington, despite committing seven turnovers in the quarter, led by 54-51 at halftime.
The Magic began the second half with a 12-7 run and Washington, not wanting the Magic to extend their momentum, called timeout. The Wizards then scored six straight points on jumpers from Larry Hughes (20 points, nine assists) and Stackhouse.
Brendan Haywood provided the Wizards with their best spark of the quarter. Guarded for the most part by Shawn Kemp, Haywood did a decent job of getting put-backs and playing around the basket in general to score nine points and help the Wizards to a 79-77 lead.

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