Wizards wake up, sneak past 76ers, 94-87

Jordan scores 30 points in Washington's 2nd win over Philly this season

Pro Basketball

November 29, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA - Go figure these Washington Wizards.

Sometime during the course of their shocking 94-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers last night at the First Union Center, Wizards coach Doug Collins turned toward his assistants and said, "Is this the same team we saw [Tuesday night] in Cleveland?"

The Wizards followed that 19-point loss to the Cavaliers with their best performance of the season.

It wasn't just Michael Jordan's 30 points and seven assists that made the difference. It was Richard Hamilton's 28 points and career-best tying nine rebounds. It was the defense and energy provided by backup point guard Tyronn Lue.

All helped nullify an erratic 40-point performance by Allen Iverson. The NBA's reigning Most Valuable Player scored only one basket in the third quarter when the Wizards overturned an eight-point deficit with a 17-4 run.

The result was the second victory in three games for the Wizards (4-10), and the second straight this season over the defending Eastern Conference champions. The first came in the opening week of the season when Iverson and Aaron McKie were injured.

The Wizards continue on the road tomorrow night in Miami.

"I think we felt the need to come out and play hard," Jordan said. "When we come out and lay the effort on the court, you never know what can happen. It's important to come out this way every night. It doesn't matter if it's Philly or Cleveland."

The victory came one night after Jordan calmly eviscerated his teammates, questioning their heart for a horrid performance against the Cavaliers. Those words must have been taken to heart, particularly by Hamilton.

"We stuck with it, we didn't get rattled," said Hamilton, who scored 13 points during that comeback last night, some of which came with Jordan on the bench resting. "We really played aggressive. We didn't let last night's game get to us."

Said Collins: "I would hope that when Michael Jordan speaks, other players would listen. I know I do."

Collins gave a lot of the credit to Lue, who was acquired during the off-season because of his performance against Iverson in last season's NBA Finals while he was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lue came off the injured list before last night's game and played his best game of the season. He finished with nine points and seven assists in 24 minutes. Though he wound up fouling out, he had done enough to throw Iverson off his game.

"Ty is such a tough little guy," said Collins. "He's a competitor. What Ty brings is energy. We have been sort of lifeless as a team. He really juiced our team up tonight. He was awesome. Allen still got 40, and that shows what a great player he is."

Said Lue: "I slowed him down; I tried to deny him the ball as much as possible. When he caught it, I wanted him to catch it three or four feet behind the [three-point] line. I just tried to keep it out of his hands as much as possible."

Several times during the third quarter, Iverson drove the lane, attracting two or three defenders, and lost the ball. It often gave the Wizards, particularly Hamilton, fast-break layups and dunks. Iverson finished with nine turnovers.

Even with Jordan taking his customary rest toward the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, the Wizards were able to build their lead. They led by as many as 10 - 78-68 - on a baseline jumper by reserve forward Popeye Jones late in the third quarter and by six going into the fourth quarter.

Rested, Jordan did just enough to keep the Wizards in control of the game. After a basket by Iverson cut Washington's lead to 78-72, Jordan hit a short jumper. He later made another jumper and a free throw to give the Wizards their biggest lead at 88-76.

"I just like the way we played," said Jordan, who finished 11-for-27 from the field but had one dominating stretch when he scored 14 straight Washington points. "I think the last two or three games we came out with some great energy, and that is something to build on."

NOTE: With Lue's activation, the Wizards placed forward Tyrone Nesby on the injured list with a lower back strain.

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