Jordan-less Wizards take down Bulls, 115-90

Alexander's 26 give team 2nd win in row without star

Pro Basketball

March 06, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Since he suffered a cartilage tear in his right knee just over a week ago, Michael Jordan has taken to watching the Washington Wizards from the security of the locker room or inside the tunnel that borders the MCI Center court.

Jordan's view, at least in the past two games, has been particularly sweet as the Wizards have displayed an ability to not only compete in his absence, but also win.

With their 115-90 pasting of the Chicago Bulls last night, the Wizards, achieving season highs in points and field-goal percentage (57 percent), took another step toward establishing themselves as a team reliant, but not entirely dependent, on Jordan.

"When we're out there doing what we do, we're looking at each other, eye to eye, like we have to do it," said forward Tyrone Nesby, who has moved into the starting lineup in Jordan's absence. "That's what we're doing, sticking together and helping each other out."

For a second straight game, the Wizards (29-30) got major help from second-year guard Courtney Alexander, who followed up Sunday's 32-point performance against the Orlando Magic with a 26-point game last night off the bench.

"The last two games have felt really good," said Alexander, who shot 9-for-11 from the field. "Obviously, it's been an up-and-down season, with more downs than ups. But this is the pivotal part of the season, and it feels real good to contribute. Coach [Doug] Collins has shown confidence in me, and my teammates are doing an excellent job of getting me open and getting me shots."

Said Wizards guard Chris Whitney: "Courtney was hurt with some nagging injuries, and it was hard for him to get a rhythm, being the scorer that he is. He has to get a rhythm, and you can see that he's found it. The shot is going down for him. He's always played hard, but now everybody is getting to see what the real Courtney Alexander is all about."

Indeed, this is the Alexander that Jordan, when he was president of basketball operations, salivated over last February when he acquired the former Fresno State standout from the Dallas Mavericks in the Juwan Howard deal. Alexander and Collins have spent a considerable amount of time discussing his role this season, but Alexander seems to have found a comfort zone.

"Courtney's playing with great confidence, and he's in a great rhythm," Collins said. "I'm really happy for him; this is a great boost for him because I know he's been very disappointed this year after being hurt for a while. The greatest thing he can do now is finish his season wonderfully for us. And if he can do that, then he gives us another guy out there on the floor who can score."

With Alexander leading the charge, the Wizards' bench outscored Chicago's reserves 62-12. Most importantly, with centers Jahidi White and Brendan Haywood in the lineup, the Bulls (16-44) were unable to push Washington around inside, as they did in last Friday's 90-81 win over the Wizards at the United Center.

The Wizards not only controlled the middle last night, but the boards as well, out-rebounding Chicago, 47-29.

"The last game, they felt that they could push us over. There's no way that they could do that, so we had to come out and set a tone," said White, who had 13 points and seven rebounds.

NOTES: Collins said Jordan would travel with the team during its nine-day, six-game West Coast trip, which begins next Wednesday, to continue his therapy and to be around the players. However, Collins said it would be "stretching it" to think Jordan would be ready to play by the end of the western swing, which concludes March 21 at Utah. ... Rookie forward Kwame Brown missed last night's game because of the flu, which forced Richard Hamilton to miss Sunday's win over the Magic.

Next for Wizards

Opponent: Detroit Pistons

Site: MCI Center, Washington

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

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

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