Jazz enjoys itself vs. Wizards

Utah, with long memory, wins, 94-79

Jordan shows rust with 11-point night

March 22, 2002|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Jazz and its fans have been waiting a long time to give Michael Jordan some measure of payback for the pain he gave them three years ago when he hit a jumper over Bryon Russell in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Last night's 94-79 Utah win over the Washington Wizards didn't exactly settle old scores, but it gave them some measure of good feeling, and they got to play schoolyard bully to boot.

Jordan, in his second game since returning from a cartilage tear in his right knee, looked more like a 39-year-old trying to comeback from three weeks off, with 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting in 22 minutes.

Jordan, who returned to the Wizards' lineup Wednesday night in Denver after 12 games on the shelf, said he experienced some stiffness in the knee overnight after the Nuggets game but felt better as the day wore on yesterday after riding a stationary bike and warming up.

"The doctor said the next day is going to dictate how much you overdid it the day before," said Jordan. "And seeing that I didn't have any swelling, I'm pretty much doing the right thing, the correct thing, in building my time back up."

Said Washington coach Doug Collins: "You could see it. Michael's very rusty. He hasn't had any kind of practice or anything. It's amazing to me that he can do what he's done being off for three weeks and not having any practice. I'm hoping that in a couple more days and in a couple more games, he'll get back into a better rhythm."

Jordan had a bit of the old rhythm in the second quarter, when, guarded by Utah rookie Andrei Kirlenko with about two minutes to go in the half, he drove to the basket for a now-rare dunk with 1:48 remaining in the half to tie the score at 46.

That was about as much of a highlight as either Jordan or the Wizards, who finished a six-game Western swing with a split, could muster for the night, as they went cold in the third quarter, hitting just three baskets and going more than seven minutes without a shot from the floor.

"In the third quarter, we played good defense, but we were 3 of 19, and we couldn't put the ball in the basket," said Collins. "We gave ourselves a chance to win with our defense, but we shot 3-for-19, so we couldn't make up any ground on them."

Russell, who believes to this day that Jordan pushed off on the final shot in the 1998 Finals, got a little revenge for himself, hitting a key three-pointer late in the fourth quarter over Jordan, to quell a mini-Wizards run, after Washington had sliced a 15-point Utah lead down to 10.

"I said, `What's up, how're you doing'," said Russell. "And he said, `What's up, how're you doing." And that was it. He's maybe a step slower, but I'm sure he'll correct that this summer. He'll be back."

Richard Hamilton led the Wizards (32-37) with 14 points but shot only 2-for-11 from the floor.

Karl Malone had 23 points to pace the Jazz (37-31), while John Stockton had 19 points and seven assists for Utah.

Hamilton and Malone provided a little spice for the game, attended by NBA Commissioner David Stern, as with 2:19 to go in the fourth, the 6-6, 193-pound Hamilton fouled the 6'9 255-pound Malone, who was driving to the lane, with his foot extended, as if to kick Hamilton.

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