Bucks stop Wizards, Jordan

He scores 31 points, but Milwaukee pulls away for 107-98 win

November 15, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- In trying to find a combination of players to start the second quarter of last night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins wound up with a group that consisted of rookies Kwame Brown, Etan Thomas and Bobby Simmons, as well as second-year guard Courtney Alexander and little-used point guard Tyronn Lue.

It looked more like a team from the NBA's new developmental league, and even against some of Milwaukee's second-team players, it wasn't a fair fight. By the time Collins got Michael Jordan back on the court, a quick seven-point run by the Bucks was about to become another blowout loss for the Wizards.

Though Jordan would lead the Wizards back from what became a 21-point deficit in the second quarter to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, the energy he and some of his teammates expended ultimately led to a disheartening 107-98 defeat at MCI Center.

Jordan finished with 31 points on 12 of 24 shooting -- the first time this season he has hit at least half his shots in a game -- but missed a few down the stretch while making a couple of turnovers that helped Milwaukee pull away for good.

"We are one quarter away," Jordan said after the team's fifth straight defeat, the longest losing streak he has endured since the third of his 13 seasons with the Chicago Bulls. "We spend so much energy trying to get back that down the stretch we are tired and we are shooting shots that are a little short."

Not only did the Wizards fail to score during the first two minutes of the second quarter with Jordan on the bench, they also didn't get him the ball during the first four minutes after he returned. By the time he took his first shot in the quarter, the deficit had climbed to 58-37.

"I think they forgot about me a little bit," Jordan said.

With the exception of Simmons, the team's second-round draft choice out of DePaul, Collins went with a veteran group the rest of the game.

It was Jordan, Christian Laettner and Popeye Jones who led the Wizards to within 84-78 by the end of the third quarter. They tied the score at 84 with 10:01 remaining in the game.

But a three-point play by Ray Allen (22 points) led Milwaukee (5-1) on another 7-0 run to break open the game.

During that stretch, Jordan missed three shots and committed two turnovers, the second of which led to two free throws by Bucks reserve guard Michael Redd. The Wizards (2-6) never got closer than six and two free throws by Sam Cassell (27 points) increased the lead to nine, 100-91, with 3:37 left.

"We got into a situation where we could not keep them off the free-throw line," said Collins, alluding to Milwaukee's 27 of 33 shooting. "We got them into the penalty early and one of the keys to the game was don't get them on the foul line. This is a great free-throw shooting team."

The Bucks are a great shooting team, period. They made 10 of 21 threes last night, with six players contributing. Conversely, the Wizards made only one of five. But the difference was that second quarter, when Washington was outscored 29-12.

Washington's losing streak coincides with its second-quarter troubles. The Wizards have been outscored in the quarter in each game, and have been badly beaten in the quarter three times this season. It has made Jordan play more minutes than he originally intended, with his 41 last night tying his season-high.

"The second quarter," Jordan said, "is killing us."

So is the team's inexperience. After starting Brown the past two games, Collins has lost confidence in the 19-year-old forward who was the top pick of the Wizards and the first high school player ever taken first in the NBA draft. He also has lost confidence in Alexander, who played only 13 minutes.

Asked if his rotation is shortening, Collins smiled.

"Like lard," he said.

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