Jordan, Wizards slip, fall

Star shoots 5-for-26 in 99-84 loss to Sonics

November 12, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Michael Jordan wore a look of disbelief for most of the 39 minutes he spent on the court yesterday at the MCI Center, the shock emanating from one of the worst shooting performances of his legendary career and another dismal effort by the Washington Wizards.

That the Wizards lost their fourth straight game, a 99-84 pounding by the road-weary Seattle SuperSonics, wasn't as surprising as watching Jordan go without a field goal in the first half or missing his first 14 shots before finishing 5-for-26 from the field.

"They definitely didn't have a leader offensively today, not from myself," said Jordan, whose NBA-record streak of 846 straight regular-season games of scoring in double figures was threatened until he scored 10 in the fourth quarter to wind up with a season-low 16 points. "I couldn't get anything to go."

By the time Jordan made his first field goal, a wide-open layup off a rebound scramble of his own missed shot with 4:14 left in the third quarter, the Wizards (2-5) were in the process of getting buried with a 76-51 deficit while being outscored 28-14 in the third quarter.

Though Jordan got some jump shots to fall in the fourth, and spurred a spirited but short-lived comeback in which Washington cut Seattle's lead to 80-73 with a little over seven minutes to play, it did little to mask the 38-year-old's shooting woes this season or his new team's continued failings.

"It was probably one of the worst shooting nights I've had in my career, actually," said Jordan, who is now shooting just under 38 percent (65-for-172) after being better than a 50 percent shooter during his 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls. "It's not like I took bad shots; I had great shots.

"When you miss a few, it starts working on you mentally. You start trying to find the mechanics and getting more technical, especially in the course of a game, and that's the worst time to come out of a shooting slump."

Jordan had an interesting reaction to his own struggles, which also included his team enduring four straight regular-season losses for the first since the 1989-90 season. As perennial All-Star Gary Payton helped the SuperSonics (3-5) break their own three-game losing streak with 32 points and 15 assists, Jordan smiled.

"I found myself laughing," Jordan said. "As hard as I was trying, I just couldn't get it to fall. Some easy shots, layups, things of that nature. You don't have nights like this."

Asked what it was like to see Jordan miss so many shots, the always blunt Payton said: "I wasn't thinking about anything. He missed shots. That's basketball. Just try to go back and capitalize, and that's what we did."

Jordan's misfires were only a part of another disappointing performance for the Wizards. For the second straight game, and the third time this season, Washington couldn't match its opponent's emotion and intensity despite that Seattle was finishing a five-game seven-day road trip.

Wizards coach Doug Collins tried switching his lineup for the fourth time this season, with rookie forward Kwame Brown making his first start as a pro and guard Richard Hamilton coming off the bench for the first time since the middle of last season. Hamilton provided a brief lift, finishing with 23 points, but Brown was lost defensively.

After Collins went over the defensive sets for Seattle's first three possessions in a pre-game meeting, Brown failed to execute a simple switch on a pick-and-roll. Although the SuperSonics didn't score on their first five possessions and would watch the Wizards jump out to an 11-4 lead, it set the tone for the Wizards.

One thing is certain: Things might get worse for the Wizards before they get better, with the last three games on the current homestand against the Milwaukee Bucks, Utah Jazz and Charlotte Hornets.

NOTES: The Wizards out-rebounded their opponents for the first time this season, 44-40, led by Jordan's game-high 12 boards. ... Wizards guard Chris Whitney sprained his right ankle in the second quarter, and after playing the first 1:31 of the second half, he didn't return.

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