Jordan glows again, hits 45 to down Nets

He scores 22 straight as Wizards roll, 98-76

January 01, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - New Jersey Nets forward Kenyon Martin, the first pick in last season's NBA draft, may have a long and productive career if he remembers a valuable lesson he learned last night, namely never practice full disclosure with Michael Jordan.

Martin, who had had some success early on guarding Jordan, made the decision in the second quarter to tell the 38-year-old legend that he was hurting a bit.

Bad move, kid. Before Martin knew it, Jordan had torched him for 22 straight points during the second and third periods, one off his NBA record, on the way to 45 overall, in leading the Washington Wizards to a 98-76 win over the Nets before a sellout crowd at MCI Center.

"I got in a great rhythm," said Jordan. "Right at that time, Kenyon Martin told me that he had a back brace. You don't want to tell me that."

Indeed, on a night when the world marks the passage of one year to the next, Jordan continued his own personal turn-back-the-clock observation, following Saturday's remarkable 51-point performance over the Charlotte Hornets with last night's masterpiece.

"I'm feeling a lot better in terms of my health, and once I get in a rhythm, I can get it going. I guess we'll keep that 'old player' conversation down a little bit," Jordan said.

Jordan, who hit 16 of 32 shots from the floor, to go along with 10 rebounds and seven assists, turned in a second straight bravura performance after he scored only six points in a 108-81 loss last Thursday at Indiana that led some to whisper he had lost too much from three years away from the game to be dominant.

Instead, Jordan tossed in a collection of drives, jumpers and hesitation moves that elicited oohs and aahs from the sellout crowd and evoked his brilliant past.

"I felt good, with the flow of the shots," Jordan said. "I felt like I had the advantage over the defense. Though Kenyon is a 6-foot-9 guy, I felt like I had the quickness. Though he took away some of my post-up, I just tried to utilize my quickness on the perimeter and the guys set great screens."

"He's more of a surgeon now," Washington coach Doug Collins said. "Before, he just beat you with sheer will, skill, energy. Now, he just slices you. He finds out where the attack is and he just reads it. And he's got a clock in his head and he knows what that clock is.

"I've always said the older you get, the easier the game comes to you. Unfortunately, your legs get older. With Michael, he has used that brilliant mind of his, and now he just plays and does what he does on any particular night."

And it was fitting that Jordan's dominance returned against the Nets (19-10), a team he has historically tortured. New Jersey, which suffered its worst loss of the year, has now lost to a Jordan-led franchise on the road 22 consecutive times, dating back to March 1985.

Jordan, who had been hobbled earlier in the season with ailing knees, led four Wizards - Popeye Jones (12 points), Hubert Davis (10 points) and Chris Whitney (14 points) - in double figures.

"Michael's feeling better," Collins said. "I guess that's an understatement. He's back to lifting [weights]. [Trainer] Stevie Stricker has been on him about once his knees start feeling better to get the power back in his quads and his butt because that's where you get your lift.

"Michael said he watched a couple of tapes and he realized that on his plant foot that he wasn't really striding into it like he normally did, so he wasn't getting the elevation. Great players watch tape as well. He was magnificent. He carried us, he gave us a big lead and then he rested and our guys were able to take the game home."

Just as importantly, the Wizards dominated the Nets on the boards, out-rebounding New Jersey by a whopping 62-30 margin. Jones had 14 rebounds, while rookie center Brendan Haywood had 13 boards and Jahidi White had 10.

New Jersey's Martin and Keith Van Horn had 16 points each. But the Nets were buried by a 15-2 Wizards run in the second and third periods - with all Washington points scored by Jordan - that broke a 41-41 tie and gave the Wizards (16-14) a 13-point lead. The surge essentially closed the deal, as New Jersey never threatened from then on.

With the win, the Wizards matched their best December in franchise history, with an 11-4 month. It sends them into 2002 with some time off to rest and reflect, with only two games in the first eight days of January, the first of which comes Friday against the Chicago Bulls, Jordan's old team.

"What's Friday," said Jordan with a grin. "I've got three days and I'm going to rest. You can tell that I have a cold, but I'm definitely looking forward to Chicago."

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Chicago Bulls

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Friday, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: CSN/WTEM (980 AM)

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