- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

MIAMI Michael Jordan likes to compare the final stretch of his last season to golf. In it there are bogeys and birdies, ups and downs, highs and lows.
Last night against the Miami Heat, the Washington Wizards got the yips.
In a game in which the Wizards looked as if they forgot to take along a caddie, they corrected themselves for a moment but only a moment and went on to drop a game to the lottery-bound Miami Heat 93-83 at American Airlines Arena in front of 16,500 fans.
The fall was prompted by a 27-9 run that started late in the third quarter and into the fourth. And when it ended the Wizards (29-30) sounded a lot worse off than they really are.
Or maybe they are a lot worse than they appear.
"You've got to play to win," said Charles Oakley, who was upset with the effort of some of his teammates, some of whom he didn't think even belonged on the floor. "You've got to play guys that understand in back-to-back games what it takes to win. [The Heat] are one of the hardest-playing teams in the league, and they've got a great coach in Pat Riley. They're undermanned, but they play with force, and we don't play with force. We went out there lackadaisical and felt that we were going to win because we won [Saturday] night."
Oakley never called out any names following the disappointing loss. Rather, the 17-year veteran pointed the finger at everything and everybody associated with the Wizards.
"I'm being critical about everything," Oakley continued. "At this time of the season, if guys ain't willing to do the right thing don't [mess around with] me."
It could get interesting this week, when the Wizards have games against the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers. And later in the week there is a crucial game against the Milwaukee Bucks, with whom the Wizards are in a life-and-death struggle.
The loss ended the Wizards' three-game winning streak. But more important was the way they lost.
The Wizards' sluggish play resulted in a 57-45 Heat lead in the third quarter. They wiped that out with a 19-2 run with Anthony Goldwire filling in at point guard for Juan Dixon, who struggled to five points on 1-for-7 shooting and turned the ball over five times one day after scoring a career-high 27 points.
But the Heat (20-39) wiped that out with a run of their own, turning a 63-59 Washington lead with under a minute left in the third quarter to an 86-72 lead from which the Wizards could not recover.
Said Dixon: "It was pretty much the same as it was in Chicago. It wasn't any different. I tried to get guys the ball. I just didn't execute."
The Heat got contributions from all over the place, and with each play their confidence seemed to grow.
There was Rasual Butler (11 points) nailing long jumpers. There was Mike James, a reserve like Butler, pushing the ball upcourt and blowing past defenders for layups on the way to 10 points and five assists.
They are not exactly household names, but they made a huge difference last night, and that probably led to some of the frustration that filtered through the Wizards' locker room.
"I think that when it mattered most they just out-toughed us," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "We played eight minutes of team basketball, and that was in the third quarter. Today was one of those games where I don't think we brought out the best in each other. I thought we were disconnected all game."
Caron Butler led the Heat with 20 points and five assists. Brian Grant had 13 points and 14 rebounds. Travis Best also had five assists and 13 points, and Eddie Jones, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, finished with 16 points.
Jerry Stackhouse led the Wizards with 24 points. Jordan finished with 21 points but made only nine of 27 shots and grabbed eight rebounds.
After the game the theme of the night was the discombobulated style the Wizards played.
"In the third quarter we found our rhythm. But in the fourth quarter we let them continue to score. They were off and running then," Jordan said. "In the third quarter I thought we did a great job. We got a three-point lead. But from that point we didn't match them defensively."
Jordan added that not having regular starting point guard Tyronn Lue on the injured list with a separated shoulder hurt the Wizards. Washington had just 15 assists. Miami, on the other hand, had 21.
"Losing Ty Lue was a big loss for us, in terms of just getting us into a set and getting defensive pressure on the guards," Jordan said. "I just felt it was one of those games where we could never really get in sync offensively."

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