- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

SEATTLE The Washington Wizards won one last night that was as big as any game they've played here in years.
With Michael Jordan and Jerry Stackhouse making huge baskets down the stretch, the Wizards defeated the Seattle SuperSonics 80-74 at soldout Key Arena. In so doing, they pulled a half-game ahead of Milwaukee for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Milwaukee lost earlier in the day to the Denver Nuggets 108-102.
Jordan led the Wizards with 26 points and 10 rebounds. Stackhouse added 20 points.
The night before, the Wizards defeated the Blazers going with Tyronn Lue and Jahidi White as the starting point guard and center, respectively. Wizards coach Doug Collins went with those two again. White's getting the call signaled that perhaps Collins will settle on him at center the rest of the season rather than playing Brendan Haywood, whose play has seemed to have leveled off recently.
Lue played a role in last night's victory, finishing with 11 points and four assists.
However, it was Jordan who carried the Wizards at the most crucial points of last night's game. In back-to-back possessions late in the fourth quarter the Wizards went to Jordan and in each case he responded with a clutch basket. His baseline jumper put the Wizards ahead 71-65 with 2:19 left, not long after the Sonics had cut the lead to 67-65.
And after Seattle's Rashad Lewis's put-back, Jordan responded with a another jumper.
Seattle pulled within 74-72 on a 3-pointer form Vladimir Radmanovic. However, Stackhouse's put-back with 15.2 to play restored the Wizards' lead to four points
The Wizards began the game hot, much in the way they started the night before against Portland in a 95-91 shocker.
However, this time the Wizards were attacking the basket, not settling for jump shots, and this seemed to generate more activity and energy among the players. Leading the way was Jordan, who was greeted with a hearty ovation despite the fact that he and his Chicago Bulls denied the Sonics a title in 1996.
Jordan began the game by driving to the basket rather than relying on his jumper and it paid of. Jordan scored 12 points in the quarter, the Wizards as a team made 12 of 20 shots from the floor, and they led going into the second quarter 28-19.
For the Sonics, the only player that showed any signs of life early on was rookie power forward Reggie Evans, who scored 11. Otherwise, Seattle made just six of 21 shots from the floor.
However, the Sonics' biggest mistake of the first quarter appeared to be not getting the ball into the hands of Brent Barry. Barry didn't take a shot in the first quarter, probably because he picked up two fouls and just played five minutes.
However, the hot hand belonged to Barry in the second, when he pumped in all 11 of his first-half points.
Barry hurt the Wizards in a variety of ways. To begin with, he made all but one of his 3-point attempts to get the Wizards' defense off balance.
His biggest shot of the quarter came with time running out in the first half. After an errant Washington shot, Barry gathered in the ball and raced across midcourt. And with the clock about to expire, he lofted a 35-footer that swished through the net.
The shot was reviewed, but it was just a formality. It didn't take long for the officials to come back with a ruling that the basket counted.
Barry's hoop closed out a 10-0 run at the end of the quarter, giving the Sonics a 44-42 halftime lead.
However, the Sonics, who trailed by 12 points early in the quarter, didn't get back into the game with offense. Instead, the Sonics' defense smothered the Wizards, forcing them into committing five turnovers.
Seattle extended its lead to seven points at the start of the third and threatened to get the Key Arena fans already fueled by Jordan's final appearance in Seattle involved in the game.
But the Wizards played with a sense of renewed urgency to the end of the quarter. Trailing 50-44 after a basket by Seattle's Predrag Drobnjak with 9:14 left, Washington scored nine unanswered points to reclaim the lead 53-50 on a Jahidi White layup.
With Stackhouse picking up the offensive load and their defense picking it up, Washington outscored the Sonics 20-13. Stackhouse scored eight points in the quarter, which ended with the Wizards back on top 62-57.

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