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.

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. But 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 and we've been working on some things to try to give me some better shots and screens. Overall, we played a good second half."

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.

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.

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

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

The already depleted Wizards roster took another hit, when for ward Christian Laettner went back on the five-game injured list with a deep thigh contusion in his right leg. He just returned to the active roster after sitting a month with a broken leg bone.

"Christian hurt his thigh the other day in practice." said Wizard coach Doug Collins before the game. "Christian said he wasn't going to be able to play, and there's no need to have him on the roster if he's not going to play. The beat goes on with the injuries."

To replace Laettner, Washington activated Courtney Alexander from the injured list, where he had been since Dec. 26 with a sprained left ankle and left knee contusion. Collins had expressed frustration Monday with Alexander's seeming unwillingness to return from his in juries, particularly with the Wizards in such desperate straits. Richard Hamilton's return from a groin pull is still to be determined.

Alexander missed his only two shots in four minutes in the half.

Jordan and Person gave the largely undistinguishable first half most of its moments. Person, the younger brother of former Indiana Pacers star Chuck, shot a blister ing 8-for-9 in the opening quarter, helping the Cavaliers shoot 61 percent in the quarter and lead 28-23 after the first.

Meanwhile, Jordan continued his pattern of shooting feverishly in the first half, hitting eight of his first 11 attempts in the first quarter. And while Person cooled off in the second, missing his only attempt, Jordan hit three of four in the quarter for 24 points in the half. However, the Cavaliers held a 50-48 halftime lead.

"Person was hitting everything, and I think we were able to focus on him a little bit in the second half and knock him out of his rhythm." Jordan said. "When a shooter like that gets in his rhythm, there's nothing much you can do. I've been in those circumstances. The best thing you can do is try to get him out of that rhythm. I think we were able to do that the second half and he was never really able to hurt us after that."

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