Jordan nets 41

Wizards prevail in double OT

He also has 12 rebounds in 107-104 win over Pacers

January 05, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Michael Jordan has never been known for showing empathy or compassion for an opponent, and certainly not for one who broke his ribs.

So Jordan wasn't exactly torn up over the news that Indiana forward Ron Artest, the Pacers' best man-to-man defender, was starting a three-game suspension last night at MCI Center against the Washington Wizards.

Jordan used the absence of Artest, who broke Jordan's ribs in a workout session in Chicago in the summer of 2001, to score a season-high 41 points and pull down a team-high 12 rebounds to guide Washington to a 107-104 double-overtime win over the Pacers.

"Artest brings so much energy to that team that I'm pretty sure they missed his energy," Jordan said. "For us, it was a good win. We needed this win, knowing that for the last five or six games we've been playing good, solid basketball.

"Over the last couple of games, we've put together two solid 48-minute games. We just took it another step against a team that's a division leader. That, in itself, is going to help us from a confidence standpoint. Hopefully, we can just keep playing this way."

Jordan hit the first four points of the second extra session for the Wizards (16-17), playing a season-high 53 minutes. He redeemed himself, after missing a 15-footer with 24.5 seconds in the second overtime, by forcing the ball off Al Harrington's foot with 13 seconds remaining, setting the stage for Jerry Stackhouse to hit two free throws with 12 seconds left for the final victory margin.

Afterward, Jordan, whose only rest in the second half was a one-minute breather at the end of the third period, shrugged off talk that his soon-to-be 40-year-old body wasn't up to the task presented by the young and frisky Pacers (23-10).

"I've been feeling great physically," Jordan said. "I only played 30 minutes in Chicago [on Thursday]. This is a test of what I've been feeling all year, which is good. Steve [Stricker, the team trainer] has been working with me all since training camp and through the season. I've felt a lot better this year than I did last year and that showed [last night], playing 53 minutes."

Said Washington coach Doug Collins: "Michael never surprises me. I look down [at the game statistics] and see 53 minutes and that worries me, but had I taken him out, I probably would have been fired. He sees Isiah [Thomas, Pacers coach] sitting on that other bench and they've had their battles through the years in Detroit and Chicago. I know it makes it extra special to play against Isiah's teams because they're such great competitors."

Indeed, Thomas, the star of the Pistons' "Bad Boys" teams that won two titles, grudgingly noted that Jordan was "great, just as good as I have ever seen him."

Jordan had help. Larry Hughes had 23 points for Washington, while Stackhouse scored 20. Charles Oakley came off the bench to score four points, pull down six rebounds and dished out four assists.

"The guy who really made the difference in the game for us is Charles Oakley," Collins said. "He came in and played the last 27 minutes and just brought out the winner that he is."

For Indiana, Harrington had 33 points off the bench but committed a costly flagrant foul on Jordan two minutes into the second overtime, as well as the turnover. Jermaine O'Neal had 26 points for the Pacers.

Meanwhile, Reggie Miller, who had 17 of his 25 points in the third quarter of a 100-84 win over Washington on Nov. 29, missed a long two-pointer at the end of regulation to propel the Wizards into their first overtime contest of the season.

Miller, who had 11 points, missed two three-pointers in the final 10 seconds of the second overtime that would have forced a third extra session.

"I've had situations like that, so I empathize with him," Jordan said of Miller. "It's one of those situations where you get good looks and it just didn't go. Believe me, I don't want to play him the next game.

"He wished he could have done something different [last night]. We did a good job, knowing that the focus was going to be on him at the end of ballgames. They have to go to him, so most of our help was toward him."

Next for Wizards

Opponent:Boston Celtics

Site:FleetCenter, Boston

When:Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

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

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