- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 6, 2003

Michael Jordan could have stayed home for this one and rested his aching back.

Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes each scored 20 points last night as the Washington Wizards ended a two-game losing streak with a 99-80 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers at MCI Center.

Jordan left Tuesday's loss to the Toronto Raptors in the first half because of back spasms and was questionable for last night's contest. But Jordan played 25 minutes and finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

"I knew I couldn't be spectacular or do anything crazy," he said. "I was basic. I don't think I jumped a foot off the ground on my jump shot."

The game became more important than it might have been because it came on the heels of two ugly losses to Miami and Toronto, teams that will be major players in the NBA Draft lottery later this year.

The Wizards also got a huge lift last night from the Orlando Magic, who defeated Milwaukee behind 48 points from Tracy McGrady. Now the Wizards and Bucks have the same record (30-31) and are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee comes to town tomorrow.

"We're both fighting to get in the playoffs," Christian Laettner said. "Sometimes we're eighth and [the Bucks are] ninth. Sometimes Orlando is eighth. It's a big game. We've got to win if we want to make the playoffs. We've got to win Friday's game."

Wizards coach Doug Collins said he doesn't know what to expect of the Wizards when the rapidly meshing backcourt of Gary Payton and Sam Cassell invades MCI Center.

"I know we are going to compete. I don't know how well we are going to play. I hope this is going to be our get-over-the-hump game," Collins said.

The Clippers, of course, have had a penchant for making teams look better than they are ever since they began soiling the NBA with their putrid brand of basketball.

Last night the Clippers made their only appearance of the season in Washington, playing their second game under coach Dennis Johnson, the sixth coach in 10 years. They added to their dubious legacy by scoring eight points in the third quarter when they shot 4-for-21.

Laettner notched his third double-double in four games with 13 rebounds and 10 points, and added five assists. And with 15 points, Brendan Haywood finished one point shy of his season high.

The victory came so easily that even Wizards center Jahidi White saw his first playing time of the season. White played four minutes and scored four points in his fourth-quarter appearance.

Corey Maggette came off the bench to lead the Clippers, losers of seven in a row and 13 of 15, with 14 points.

Jordan left Tuesday's loss to Toronto in the first half after he experienced back spasms that were bad enough to send him home before the game ended.

Jordan's back stiffened up yesterday morning and the Wizards were uncertain whether or not he would be available on a night that it turns out they might not have needed him.

"The doctor told him that there was a chance that his back might tighten up on him," Collins said. "Michael asked him if it was life threatening and he said no. Michael said, 'Then I'm going to play.' "

Jordan took extra measures to be ready, receiving electronic stimulation treatment and massages for most of the day to ensure that he would remain perfect in his attempt to play every game in his final season.

It was a goal of his last year, but a knee injury cut his season short at 60 games.

Said Jordan: "Sometimes it's good to have big brother around. That's primarily why I wanted to play. Not to chase stats, but to be there and show it means a lot to me. I was able to play through some pain with my back bothering me."

Washington shot 38.9 percent from the field in the first quarter but led 26-24 because they had success (12 of 14) from the free-throw line.

Washington's good play against the undermanned Clippers injuries kept Elton Brand and Lamar Odom out of the game carried over into the second half.

It started early.

Leading 32-31, Washington got a dunk from Stackhouse and three consecutive baskets from Laettner to push its lead to 40-31 with 7:06 left in the second quarter.

The drubbing of the Clippers was thoroughly reflected in box score. The Wizards won the rebounding battle 52-37 and shot 33-for-40 from the free-throw line.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide