Last-second shot leaves Wizards in desperation

Hawks hand Washington 4th loss in a row, 91-89, as playoff chances fade

Pro Basketball

April 04, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA - Michael Jordan generally doesn't leave a door cracked at the end of a game. For most of his storied career, when it's been time to finish a contest, Jordan has been the one to do it, and there's little left for an opponent to do but bemoan its fate.

However, basketball's greatest closer left a sliver of door space last night against the Atlanta Hawks, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim burst through it, giving the Hawks a 91-89 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Washington lost its fourth straight game and fell 2 1/2 games back in the race to catch Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks (37-39), who were idle last night, also have the tiebreaker edge on Washington, so the Wizards (34-41) must essentially make up four games to pass Milwaukee.

"We've just made that road a little more rougher," said Wizards forward Bryon Russell. "We put ourselves in a tough spot. They have to lose four games and they only have six games. We let our fate go."

Abdur-Rahim, who scored a game-high 24 points, caught a cross-court inbounds pass with 0.6 of a second left and made a heaved shot from the baseline over Jordan as time expired, the ball bouncing high off the rim before dropping in. Moments earlier, Jordan had missed an 18-footer.

Jordan, who scored 12 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to help erase a 13-point deficit, had cheated fate enough times over 15 seasons to know it could bite him back occasionally.

"They got the shot off. It was more or less of a chance, but it went in," he said. "I missed a great opportunity, a great shot. ... I had a great look at it."

Indeed, after scoring 10 straight Wizards points and assisting on an 18-foot jumper by Christian Laettner with 46.9 seconds left that tied the score at 89, Jordan had reason to believe his jumper over Dion Glover would settle in for the winner.

But he missed, and the Hawks (30-45) gathered in the rebound, called time and set the stage for Abdur-Rahim.

"I don't know how many times guys have thrown in prayers at the end of shot clocks, at the end of quarters," said Washington coach Doug Collins. "It seems like all those shots have gone in against us all year."

In truth, the Wizards were fortunate to have gotten back in the game in the first place. They played poorly for 3 1/2 quarters, before Jordan got hot late in the fourth, finishing with 14 rebounds and seven assists, three short of his first Washington triple double.

"That was a tough shot he made, but we should have never been in that position," Russell said. "When we play a 48-minute game, we're dangerous. But we play in spurts - 20 minutes here, 24 minutes there - and we don't get anything accomplished."

Next for Wizards

Opponent:Boston Celtics

Site:FleetCenter, Boston

When:Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio:Chs. 2, 7/WTEM (980 AM)

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