Jordan still poison to Cavs

Buzzer-beating shot for 93-92 win raises memories of '89

Pro Basketball

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

CLEVELAND - The arena is different, as the Cleveland Cavaliers have moved downtown from Richfield Coliseum to Gund Arena. And the uniform of the tormentor has changed, from that of the Chicago Bulls to the Washington Wizards.

But some things don't change: Michael Jordan always beats the Cavaliers. He did it last night by nailing a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to give Washington a 93-92 win before a stunned sellout crowd.

Unlike the last time he broke Cleveland's heart, with a buzzer-beater over Craig Ehlo to knock the Cavaliers out of the 1989 playoffs, followed by repeated punching of the air, Jordan merely held his fist at about cheek level, as if he had fully well expected the improbable to become fact.

"We messed up last game [Tuesday's 89-86 loss to Detroit], when I didn't get a good shot," said Jordan, who had 26 points and eight assists. "I'm pretty sure the guys were pretty confident getting me open and executing. And everybody in the gym knew I was going to take the shot."

Said Washington coach Doug Collins: "I like the fact that it went in and the horn sounded, and there was nothing left."

After the Cavaliers scored on a Chris Mihm layup with 1.6 seconds to go to take a 92-91 lead, Collins sketched a final play that had never been tried before, to give Cleveland something to think about.

He inserted Richard Hamilton - in his first game back from the injury list after missing 17 games with a groin-muscle pull - into the game as a decoy, and sent Courtney Alexander out past the three-point circle.

But, as Jordan said, each one of the 20,562 in the building knew what was coming.

Jordan, who was initially guarded by former Virginia star Bryant Stith, found himself wide-open when Stith inexplicably left him and headed to the basket, presumably to pick up Chris Whitney, who had 20 points.

"I was very surprised I was wide-open," said Jordan, who had 40 in the Wizards' 94-85 win over Cleveland last week at MCI Center. "I just tried to set a good screen to force them to switch. The better screen that I can set, the more open I could be. But I was surprised at how open I really was."

Said Cleveland coach John Lucas: "We were switching on everything and not letting anybody come out and kept our bigs in, so they couldn't throw anything into the basket. We did the first part. We didn't do the second part. It's unimportant who, when and why. Put it on the coach."

The last-second heroics of Jordan, who was just 11-for-27 on a night when the rest of his team hit 52 percent, masked the fact that the Wizards (22-21) nearly blew a winnable game against a poor opponent. "We fought back from a 10-point deficit," said Jordan. "We just fought and ground our way to a win."

Wizards tonight

Opponent: Atlanta Hawks

Site: MCI Center, Washington

Time: 7

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

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