Wallace's `tribute' no help to Wizards as they fall, 90-80

Ex-Washington player says honoring Jordan aim in big game for Pistons

March 15, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - In his own, convoluted way, Detroit Pistons forward Ben Wallace viewed his performance last night against the Washington Wizards as a personal tribute to Michael Jordan.

Rest assured that if many other NBA players pay that kind of homage to Jordan, he won't have to worry about making the playoffs in his final season, as he'll be watching from home.

Wallace praised Jordan all the way to a 17-point, 24-rebound night - both season highs - to power the Pistons past Washington, 90-80, at the Palace last night.

"I wanted to come out and play hard and compete against him," said Wallace. "I think that shows the ultimate respect to a guy if you come out and try to beat him down, even in his last night in the building. He did a lot for the game, and if it hadn't been for him, a lot of us wouldn't be here. So we owe it to him to come out and compete."

And compete Wallace did, all the way to swishing his first three-pointer of the season in the closing seconds of the Pistons' wire-to-wire romp over the team that traded him four years ago to the Orlando Magic for Ike Austin, only to watch Wallace become last year's Defensive Player of the Year.

"For a guy who everyone says is one-dimensional, he was traded from Washington to Orlando and Orlando to Detroit," said Jordan. "Those are two teams who wish they could change the hands of time and change their minds in certain circumstances. This is a kid who wants it bad enough."

Wallace brought the defensive intensity inside that has been lacking from the Wizards nearly all season, flushing them out of the lane and capturing nearly every missed shot.

"Ben is one of the most determined players in the NBA," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "They list him at 6-9, but I think it's more like 6-7. He has the heart of a champion. He's got a will that's incredible and when you watch him play the game, he's the perfect example of you don't have to have the ball to be a great player."

The Pistons started hot, shooting 56 percent from the floor in the first period. When their perimeter game cooled, they pounded it inside to Wallace, who had help on the perimeter from point guard Chauncey Billups, who had 25 points to lead all scorers.

Washington (31-34), which fell a full game behind Milwaukee in the race for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 17 games left, cut a 19-point fourth-quarter lead to eight before the Pistons (41-23) righted their ship.

Jerry Stackhouse, who was traded to the Wizards in the offseason for Richard Hamilton, had 24 points to lead Washington before leaving the game with 3:02 left with an ankle sprain.

Jordan had 15 points before he was pulled with 41.7 seconds left, getting a standing ovation in his final regular-season game at the Palace.

The lone bright spot of the night for Washington was an impressive performance by reserve center Jahidi White, in his first extended action since returning March 5 from a season-long knee injury. White had six points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes and appears ready to return to the regular rotation.

"I thought Jahidi and Kwame [Brown] together gave us a physical presence in there that we hadn't had, and that really helped us stay in the game," said Collins. "If we can get that kind of game from Jahidi the rest of the season, we're going to be a tough team to beat. "

The Wizards no doubt are wondering how tough would be if they still had Wallace.















Percentages: FG .392, FT .720. 3-point goals: 0-4, .000 (Lue 0-1, Stackhouse 0-1, Russell 0-2). Team rebounds: 10. Team Turnovers: 10 (12 PTS). Blocked shots: 4 (Laettner, K.Brown, Jordan, Hughes). Turnovers: 10 (Hughes 3, Stackhouse 3, K.Brown 2, Lue, Laettner). Steals: 10 (Laettner 2, Jordan 2, Stackhouse 2, Lue, Haywood, Russell, Oakley). Technical fouls: Defensive Three Second, 8:58 second. FGFTReb












Percentages: FG .413, FT .645. 3-point goals: 8-19, .421 (Billups 4-6, Hamilton 2-4, Wallace 1-2, Robinson 1-4, Barry 0-1, Okur 0-2). Team rebounds: 12. Team Turnovers: 17 (23 PTS). Blocked shots: 8 (Wallace 3, Robinson 2, Barry, Williamson, Billups). Turnovers: 16 (Hamilton 4, Robinson 3, Williamson 3, Billups 3, Okur 2, Sanchez). Steals: 7 (Robinson 4, Billups 2, Wallace). Technical fouls: Barry, 9:33 fourth. Washington17182124-80


A-22,076 (22,076). T-2:22. Officials-Ron Garretson, David Jones, Kevin Fehr.

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