Jordan, tall Wizards open fast, top Magic

Hughes, Haywood help Washington win, 108-93

Pro Basketball

January 17, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Three nights ago, the Washington Wizards couldn't even beat a Toronto Raptors team that had only eight healthy players, three on 10-day contracts. So how in the world could they have been expected to beat the Orlando Magic last night?

In a season filled with unpredictability, the Wizards did the unpredictable, turning back the Magic, 108-93, last night at MCI Center.

The Wizards (20-19) used 28 first-half points from Michael Jordan to get things started, then turned convention on its ear by forcing the jump-shot happy Magic to defend its bigger players inside. They ended with a 50-28 advantage in points from the paint.

"I told the coaches before the game that I am not going to match that team small, because ... we lose any advantage we have with our big guys," said Washington coach Doug Collins.

"We had our minds made up that, defensively, if our big guys could get out on the floor and do what we asked them to do, we were going to throw that ball in the paint, and our guys did a good job with that."

Center Brendan Haywood had a season-high 16 points, Christian Laettner had 15 and Kwame Brown scored all nine of his points in the fourth period, when the Wizards went tall to counter Orlando's small.

"Instead of going small, we decided to attack the fact that they are small, and we forced them to play our game," Haywood said. "That's what you have to do. You can't adjust your style. You have to make them adjust their style."

In addition, Larry Hughes had 16 of his 22 points in the second half, to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. He drove to the basket rather than rely on his jumper. He got easy layups, was fouled or set up the interior players as Washington won its first since leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse went out Tuesday with a pulled left groin muscle.

"The last three or four games, I haven't shot the ball the way I wanted to, so that tells me to be more aggressive going to the basket," Hughes said.

Jordan, who had 20 points in the first quarter and finished with 32 along with eight assists and six rebounds, cooled considerably after halftime, hitting just two of seven shots.

"I got off really well early, carried the energy, and the guys picked me up in the third quarter. And from that point, we were pretty much rolling," Jordan said. "It was a great effort. We needed a win like this, especially against a team that we are battling with [for a playoff berth]."

Tracy McGrady, who scored 31 for Orlando, said: "Thank God, [Jordan] stopped shooting and passed the ball around. He could have had 50. The guy ain't just out there to be out there. He's still a hell of a competitor."

But the Wizards recognized that Jordan knew his best second-half role was as a decoy, freeing them to make big shots.

The Magic (20-21), which had won 12 of its previous 15 against Washington, did erase what had been a 16-point Wizards lead and gained a 58-58 tie.

But Washington started the fourth quarter with a 16-3 run. Hughes and Haywood each scored five in the spurt as the Wizards ran their record to 14-0 when they score 100 or more points - a league best.

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