Heat puts Wizards on ice, 97-95

Grant hits two late shots

Washington skid reaches 4

Pro Basketball

February 24, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards played with the kind of spunk last night that made them one of the biggest surprises in the NBA the first half of the season. And Michael Jordan made enough big shots during a 37-point performance to show that his 39-year-old legs will carry him a little longer.

It didn't matter to the Miami Heat.

Brian Grant made two huge jumpers in the last 55 seconds, the second of which gave the Heat the winning basket with 1.4 seconds left in a 97-95 victory at MCI Center. Eddie Jones, whose 25 points helped erase a double-digit deficit, blocked a reverse layup attempt by Richard Hamilton at the buzzer.

The defeat was the fourth straight for Washington (27-27), and the sixth in the past seven games. There is no rest for this suddenly bedraggled team, which must travel to Miami for tonight's rematch.

"That was a great game, I'm sorry we were on the short end of it, but that was a great game," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "You've got to give Miami credit. I think they scored on their last six possessions. They made some big, big jump shots."

None was bigger than the 16-footer by Grant, who took a pass from former Wizard Rod Strickland after Tyrone Nesby tried to clog the lane. It was one of a season-high 14 assists for Strickland, who also had 18 points in putting together his first double double of the season.

Despite being booed every time he touched the ball early in the game - even getting heckled by Wizards part-owner Ted Leonsis, who yelled, "Go eat another hot dog, Rod" - Strickland finally got a chance to enjoy a victory against his former team after two earlier defeats.

"I don't care if Michael scores 30 or 40, we got the W," said Strickland.

The Wizards jumped out to a 17-6 lead early, but the Heat didn't wilt. After twice taking the lead in the third quarter, Miami (22-31) fell behind by as many as five, 78-73, with a little under 10 minutes left in the game.

Washington had gone ahead by four, 87-83, after a rare three-point shot by Jordan (his ninth of the season), but the Heat would tie the game at 89 on a layup by Jones. After a 17-footer by Jordan with 2:47 left, Jones hit another shot, from 16 feet away to tie.

The Heat took the lead at 95-93 when Mourning was fouled by Jordan and made a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left, but Jordan answered with a turnaround in the lane with 19 seconds to go. After a timeout, Strickland drove and passed to wide-open Grant, who hit the game-winner.

"They had a little more time to work their play than we did," said Jordan, who scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and finished the game 13-of-25 from the field, to go along with seven assists and five rebounds.

Collins said before the game that his team's first game after the All-Star break might have led to its current slide.

"We had the Lakers down 20 in the third quarter and they took it to us, then we come back and Sacramento smacks us pretty good," Collins said. "As I look back on it, that Laker loss, the way it occurred, that took a little juice out of us, that took a little confidence away. Now we've got to get that feeling of confidence back."

Though the Wizards remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, Collins will go back to the approach he took when his team started the season 2-9.

"Now is not the time to put any pressure on anybody, or to push the envelope or to grind it," Collins said. "We're not that kind of team."

Wizards tonight

Opponent: Miami Heat

Site: American Airlines Arena, Miami

Time: 7:30

TV/Radio: CSN/WTEM (980 AM)

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