Wizards put hurt on lowly Clippers

Playing in pain, Jordan inspires 99-80 triumph

March 06, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- For the record, the Washington Wizards were listing Michael Jordan as questionable to play last night against the Los Angeles Clippers, pending his recovery from back spasms suffered in Tuesdays loss to the Toronto Raptors.

But Clippers coach Dennis Johnson, who faced Jordan on the court near the end of his playing career, knew the guy who dropped 63 points on his Boston Celtics in another basketball life would play, with the Wizards postseason life hanging so precariously.

As it happened, Jordans presence wasnt so necessary, as the Wizards got a made-to-order, 99-80 blowout victory over the hapless Clippers.

Jordan hit his first two shots, then shot 2-for-9 the rest of the first half. He played 24 minutes, shot 4-for-14 overall, scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He also helped hold Quentin Richardson and Corey Maggette to combined 7-for-25 shooting from the field.

"When I talked to [trainer] Steve Stricker this morning, he said Michael tried to get out of bed early this morning and his back locked up on him again," said Wizards coach Doug Collins. "I didn't think there was any possible way he could play. And he did.

"I think its such a great example for the rest of our team to understand where we are right now and what were fighting for and, if at all possible, hes going to be out there."

Said Wizards forward Christian Laettner: "He can play hurt and he's shown that he can play tough and play through pain. I think it helped us tonight, because last night we lost him and we lost. Having him out there helps."

The Wizards' victory was so thorough that Jordan, who also is nursing a right quadriceps muscle strain, left for good with 3:05 remaining in the game and Washington leading by 20.

The lead had expanded to as much as 30 points in the fourth quarter, before Collins emptied the bench, sitting most of his starters for the entire period.

By that point, the damage had been done. Larry Hughes, in what Collins called one of his best games as a Wizard, had 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

Jerry Stackhouse scored 20 points, including 10-for-10 on free throws, and Laettner had his third double double in four games, with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The Clippers scored eight points in the third period, a season low for a Wizards opponent this season.

And besides Los Angeles own comical play, Washington center Brendan Haywood provided the evenings levity when he sprinted to the locker room because of an upset stomach during a 20-second timeout in the third quarter, forcing the Wizards to call a full timeout to cover his absence.

Washington center Jahidi White, who had missed the entire season recuperating from offseason knee surgery, made his first appearance late in the fourth quarter, scoring on a pair of tough up-and-under moves for four points.

Last nights win, coupled with Milwaukees loss to the Orlando Magic, put the Wizards (30-31) in a tie with the Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards and Bucks meet here tomorrow night.

"It's real big," Hughes said of tomorrows game. "We only play them three times, and were 1-1, so its big, if theres a tiebreaker, that we get this win Friday night."

With Maryland mens basketball coach Gary Williams in attendance, two players who helped lead the Terps to last seasons national championship had rough evenings.

Clippers forward Chris Wilcox fouled out with four points and four rebounds in 16 minutes. Wizards guard Juan Dixon, who was benched after three starts, had four points in 20 minutes.

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