Wizards cash in at foul line

8 free throws in final :34 turn back Knicks, 89-84

Pro Basketball

January 12, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Michael Jordan has had some storied games at Madison Square Garden, which New Yorkers fancy as the world's most famous arena.

Last night's game was not one of them, but the Washington Wizards had enough veteran savvy to pull out an 89-84 win over the New York Knicks despite Jordan's late stumbles.

In the final 2:30, Jordan, who had a game-high 23 points, blew three layups and threw away an inbounds pass at a point in the game when New Yorkers especially have borne witness to his end-of-game theatrics.

Thankfully for Jordan, Jerry Stackhouse and Charles Oakley, a former Garden denizen, were there to bail him out, each hitting four free throws in the final 34 seconds to wrap up Washington's sixth win in the past seven contests.

"It was one of those nights," said Jordan, who shot 8-for-25 from the field. "You chalk it up and you say, `I don't know how we won, but we won.' We missed layups, we missed free throws. Good Lord, I missed easy layups, but Charles came in at the end and made some free throws and Jerry made some free throws and we pulled it out."

Oakley, who played 10 seasons in New York, had four free throws in the final 34 seconds and pulled down the decisive rebound with 4.1 seconds remaining; Stackhouse had four free throws in the last 17.1 seconds, and stole an inbounds pass with 1.8 seconds left.

"It was a good game to watch," said Oakley, who scored all six of his points in the final 1:45. "Mike and Stack really carried the load and hit some buckets. I got a chance to get some rebounds. Teams are going to be fighting for the seventh and [playoff] spot, so this was a game you had to win."

The Wizards (19-18) won't be inserting game film from last night into their end-of-season highlight tape, as they led by at least six points in each of the four quarters but could never quite safely put the Knicks (13-21) in their rearview mirror.

And when Howard Eisley buried a three-pointer from right in front of the Washington bench with 21.9 seconds left to give the Knicks an 84-83 lead, it appeared as though New York would finally get to administer heartbreak to a Jordan-led team.

On the ensuing possession, Stackhouse was fouled driving to the basket and converted both free throws to give Washington a one-point lead.

Allan Houston, who led New York with 22 points, meanwhile saw a 20-foot jumper go halfway down the basket and come out on New York's next possession and the Knicks quickly fouled Oakley who made two more free throws. Then Stackhouse stole the long inbound attempt with 1.8 seconds left and made two free throws to seal the game.

"We gutted it out," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "[There's] no question the Knicks were tired. They played three tough road games and then back-to-back. We were hoping that with a good defensive effort on the perimeter, it would help us find a way to win. Keeping Allan and Spree [Latrell Sprewell] off was critical."

And it gave Jordan one more opportunity to escape from New York with a win.

"It's fun," said Jordan of playing at the Garden. "This is the mecca of basketball. You have to be enthused to come in here and play. The fans don't seem quite the same as it has been in the past in the years when the Bulls and the Knicks had some rivalries going. But it's still fun to come here and play."

Next for Wizards

Opponent:Toronto Raptors

Site:MCI Center, Washington

When:Tuesday, 7 p.m.

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

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