- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 2, 2003

Abe Pollin might be the majority owner of MCI Center, but last night the building and the sellout crowd belonged to Juan Dixon.
Making the first start of his career, Dixon, the catalyst for Maryland's run to a national title last season, was the driving force behind the Washington Wizards' 101-93 come-from-behind victory over the Chicago Bulls.
On a night when the Wizards needed a shot of adrenaline, it came in the person of Dixon. He finished with a career-high 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting. In the third quarter, when the Wizards needed it most, Dixon scored 16 points and electrified the crowd with his long-range marksmanship. He connected on four of five from behind the 3-point arc.
After the game, Dixon wondered why anyone would have thought things would have turned out differently.
"I wasn't nervous," said Dixon, who has appeared in just 24 of the Wizards' 58 games. "I'm used to warming up and getting right in the starting lineup. I did it for the last two years at Maryland, and that's what I'm accustomed to. This is a new thing for me, coming off the bench. But if that is what I have to do, that's what I have to do."
Dixon's previous season high of 19 points came against Philadelphia on Jan.18.
The Wizards had led by nine in the first half, but with a little more than five minutes left in the third quarter, the lead was down to 58-57. But the Wizards, with Dixon keying the attack, scored baskets in bunches on the way to a 77-61 lead. The margin would have been even larger had the Bulls' Jamal Crawford not hit a running 38-footer at the buzzer.
"We've always had confidence in Juan," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "We struggled a lot in the second quarter, and we needed someone to give us some energy. Juan stepped up. But a lot of guys stepped up in the third quarter."
With Dixon's barrage knocking the Bulls off balance, the Wizards got steady play from the rest of the roster.
Jerry Stackhouse also finished with 27 points, knocking down 14 of 16 free throws. Christian Laettner, who has been steady and solid since the All-Star break, posted a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds), and Michael Jordan finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Brendan Haywood rounded out the all-ACC starting lineup with five blocks for the second straight game.
The victory got Washington back to .500 (29-29) for the first time since Jan.2, when it was 21-21. It also moved the Wizards into seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
Crawford and Jalen Rose led Chicago (21-40) with 21 points each. However, the Bulls' performance was overshadowed by their five technical fouls and two ejections.
Dixon got the start last night because Tyronn Lue went on the injured list after suffering a separated shoulder in Thursday's win over the Houston Rockets. The ex-Terp's value became clear late in the third quarter.
With 2:54 left and the Wizards leading 68-57, Dixon and Chicago's Donyell Marshall became entangled battling for a loose ball. Marshall shoved Dixon and was called for his second technical, resulting in an ejection.
Dixon and Marshall who is at least seven inches taller had to be separated, but as they were pushed apart, both Jordan and Stackhouse ran to Dixon's side just before Marshall was escorted to the locker room under a shower of boos.
Washington frittered away a nine-point first-quarter lead with a lackluster performance in the second period. It was so frustrating that with 1:17 left in the first half, Collins and Stackhouse were called for back-to-back technicals. For Collins, it was his first of the season.
"I think if you look at what we did in the second half and compare it to the first, it looked like there were two different teams out there playing," Collins said. "We were so flat. I just told the guys at halftime that they don't want to look back on this one at the end of the season and wonder what the heck was going on."
It didn't take much to see what was at the root of the Wizards' poor play. Washington looked as if it was ready to treat the Bulls like the doormats they have been for much of the season, taking a nine-point lead by limiting the Bulls to 39.1 percent shooting from the floor and forcing five turnovers.
But the second quarter, for the most part, belonged to the Bulls, specifically point guard Crawford.
Scoreless in the first quarter, Crawford responded with 10 points in the second when he converted four of six, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Crawford wasn't the only member of the Bulls' bench having a field day against the Wizards. All told, Chicago's bench was responsible for 23 of the team's 27 points.
Meanwhile, with his starters in a funk, Collins' bench went through the motions for much of the first half, scoring a combined six points.

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