Jordan's heroics in fourth fall short of Pistons, 89-86

10 down, Wizards tie it, but others miss last shots

January 30, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - There are far more mortal moments in this third go-round for Michael Jordan than in the first two, and at the advanced basketball age of 38 and with three years of rust, that is to be expected.

But Jordan is still capable of moments of magic, as he willed the Washington Wizards back into last night's game with the Detroit Pistons, with a brilliant fourth quarter that erased a 10-point deficit, and got the Wizards into a tie in the final 1:30.

However, the Pistons were determined to let anyone other than Jordan beat them, as first Chris Whitney and then Hubert Davis missed jumpers in the final 19 seconds, and the Wizards dropped a thrilling 89-86 decision at MCI Center.

Jordan, who had 14 of his game-high 32 points in the final quarter, was locked down tightly on Washington's final possession by Detroit's Michael Curry, with the Wizards trailing 88-86.

With about 15 seconds to go, Curry forced Jordan, who threw the inbounds pass, out past the three-point line, forcing Whitney to handle the ball, then take a shot with about seven seconds left from about 15 feet. Whitney's shot rolled off the rim and was batted back to Davis, who missed an off-balance but wide-open 12-footer in the lane.

"Obviously, I felt like I had him [Curry] on the back door and I just didn't know where the defense was and I tried to pop out and I went right back into him," Jordan said. "But Curry is a good player and I had my chances. I felt like if I could get the ball, I had the advantage in terms of penetrating and creating something. He did a good job."

Said Curry: "I was trying to push him out as far as possible, and once I pushed him out past the three-point line and Chris Whitney put the ball on the floor, I went into full denial. At that time, guys don't like to try to throw a backdoor pass, and a backdoor pass would have been a risky pass, but that was the pass I wanted them to try."

He wanted to deny Jordan at the top of the circle because that's where he was making all his shots in the second half.

Jordan, who had shot poorly through most of the first three quarters, caught fire down the stretch, and hit two free throws with 1:24 to go that gave the Wizards (21-21) an 86-84 lead, their first advantage since midway through the third quarter.

However, Pistons center Cliff Robinson, who had 14 points, made two tough baseline shots over Popeye Jones, one with 1:08 to go to tie the score and the second with 18.8 seconds left to give Detroit (22-20) an 88-86 lead.

"Cliff is a really good offensive player and he provides a lot of offensive punch for the Pistons," Jones said. "He provides that second option behind [Jerry] Stackhouse. I knew he was going to get the ball, and I just tried to stay down and get a hand up. I thought that I played pretty good defense, but he just made two pretty tough shots. That's what players do in this league to help their team win."

The Wizards did a good job defensively on Stackhouse, who had 24 points for the game, but only two in the fourth quarter, when he shot 1-for-6. But the damage, for Washington, had already been done, as they allowed the Pistons to shoot 56 percent from the field for the first three quarters.

"We were sluggish," Washington coach Doug Collins said. "We were sluggish offensively, and when that happens, then that leads to what happened on the other end. We made it so hard on ourselves. For whatever reason, it looked like we were a step slow."

The loss dropped the Wizards a game behind Detroit, a team they've had trouble with this season, losing Nov. 4, 100-78, and could face in the playoffs.

"It's tough," Whitney said. "We know that this is a team that we're going to be fighting for a playoff spot, and they've beaten us already in the regular season. We looked at this as a big game. We fought back and couldn't finish it."

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers

Site: Gund Arena, Cleveland

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WTEM (980 AM)

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