Jordan finds half-right answer

Wizard turns it around in 2nd half, finishes with 40 to beat Cavs, 94-85

Pro Basketball

January 25, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - After shooting poorly in the second half of the past two games, Michael Jordan needed a bit of a pick-me-up, and fortunately for him and the Washington Wizards, the Cleveland Cavaliers were on the schedule for last night.

The Cavaliers, historically, have been Jordan's elixir, and last night was no different as he scored 40 points in a 94-85 victory at MCI Center.

The venue for Jordan was different. He usually tortures the Cavaliers in Cleveland, but the result was about the same as he went 18-for-29 from the field. He had eight rebounds to boot.

Jordan scored eight points during a 10-0 third-quarter run that brought the Wizards (20-20) from a three-point deficit to a seven-point lead over the hapless Cavaliers (13-29), who lost their 11th straight.

Most significantly, Jordan, who had shot a combined 3-for-23 in the second halves against Minnesota and Philadelphia earlier this week (both losses), was 7-for-14 in the second half last night, though his last three shots hit the front of the iron, the sign of a player who has had to carry the offensive load.

"A lot of people have been saying that I've been physically tired," Jordan said. "I don't think that was the case. It just so happens that the two teams that we've been playing, Minnesota and Philly, made adjustments at halftime, and we haven't been able to adjust to their adjustments. [Last night], I felt fine too. I don't think Cleveland made the adjustments that the other two teams made, and we were ready for them."

In addition, Jordan got a bonus from his teammates, who did the little things to help the Wizards earn an important win in the midst of a mammoth homestand. They had lost six of their previous seven.

"This was a great effort by the team," said rookie reserve center Brendan Haywood, who had 11 points and six rebounds off the bench. "Mike did his thing, but you had a couple of guys who really stepped up at key times in the game. That's what we need to do while we're playing with some guys hurt."

Richard Hamilton remained on the injured list with an ailing groin and Christian Laettner joined him yesterday with a thigh contusion, placing Washington in dire need of scoring contributors.

Besides Haywood, the Wizards got big play from reserve Tyrone Nesby, who grabbed seven rebounds and played solid defense, and from rarely used forward Etan Thomas (seven points in 15 minutes). Popeye Jones (nine points and eight rebounds) and Hubert Davis (eight assists) also chipped in.

"We had so many guys do a great job tonight, and that is what we want," said Washington coach Doug Collins.

Jordan dropped a career-high 69 points on the Cavaliers on March 28, 1990, in Cleveland, and of course, no Clevelander will ever forget Jordan's last-second jumper over Craig Ehlo to win the clinching fifth game of an Eastern Conference first-round series at the old Richfield Coliseum.

More recently, Jordan had bad memories of Cleveland, where the Cavaliers blitzed Washington, 94-75, on Nov. 27 at Gund Arena. Reserve forward Ricky Davis connected for 18 points, with a number of dunks that night. Jordan is notorious for remembering every slight, real or perceived, and he filed that game in his personal memory bank. Last night, Davis had just seven points and four fouls in 22 minutes.

"I remember him high-flying and dunking, up by 20 points," Jordan said. "Those types of things don't go without being noticed. The best way to do that is to get him into foul trouble and have him sitting down over there, where he can watch us.

"They dominated us in their arena, and I felt like we wanted to come out and exert what we're capable of doing since then. They haven't been playing well, and we didn't want them to get well on us."

Washington guard Chris Whitney had 15 points; his three three-pointers tied him with Tracy Murray for the franchise's all-time mark (440).

Cleveland's Wesley Person had 19 points to lead the Cavaliers, but scored only three after the first quarter.

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Phoenix Suns

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

TV/Radio: CN8/WTEM (980 AM)

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