Wizards 100, Lakers 99
It was an ending no one could have imagined.
After the Washington Wizards squandered a 17-point fourth-quarter lead after Los Angeles Lakers forward Robert Horry drained a three-pointer from the left corner with 2.9 seconds left, Wizards guard Jerry Stackhouse punctuated a stunning 100-99 Washington victory in a most emphatic way.
After inbounding the ball to Bryon Russell from the left sideline, Stackhouse got the ball back, drove down the left baseline and delivered an uncontested dunk with 0.2 seconds over the Shaquille O'Neal-less Lakers before a bedazzled sell-out crowd of 20,173 at MCI Center.
Stackhouse's incredible exclamation point on a breathtaking game left the Wizards with a 3-3 record, while the Lakers fell to 2-5.
Wizards Coach Doug Collins "drew up a good play to get everybody going to the other side of the floor," Stackhouse said. "Fortunately, I got a layup. Two-point-nine seconds is a lot of time."
The Wizards had to wait longer than that to see if their perceived victory was legitimate as officials reviewed Stackhouse's dunk on a video monitor. All made shots at the buzzer are automatically reviewed and the on-court call stood. When the announcement was made that the outcome was in Washington's favor, there was pandemonium.
"It was a great win for us," Collins said. "It would have been a shame if we had let them come back and take that game away from us at the end. We had so many wonderful things happen for us. I think it was fitting winning the game the way we did. This is the kind of win that can hopefully catapult you forward."
Stackhouse's game-saving jam also allowed Michael Jordan to sleep well on his trip to Cleveland for tonight's game with the Cavaliers. After a dazzling performance in his best game of the season, Jordan missed 2 of 4 free throws in the game's final 18 seconds, which allowed the Lakers to take their first lead on Horry's jump shot.
His first miss left Washington up four, but Brian Shaw, who had 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, drained his third three-pointer of the period from above the key to make the score 97-96. Jordan then missed the first of two free throws with 12 seconds left, leaving the Wizards with a 98-96 edge.
"I missed some easy free throws, and obviously you never want to be in a position where you have a chance to help the team and you don't," Jordan said.
On the next possession, the Lakers ran a weave play with Derek Fisher and Shaw above the three-point arc and lured Washington's Bryon Russell to commit to Shaw, who found Horry, one of the best clutch late-game shooters in NBA history, wide open in the left corner.
"When I saw how much time was left I said, 'You don't ever want to give someone three seconds,' " Horry said.
The swish led to elation among the Lakers and a chorus of curses and hung heads on the Wizards' bench. Earlier this week Washington blew a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead to the Minnesota Timberwolves and a loss, this way, may have proved crushing.
Collins rallied his team, though, and calmly drew a play for Stackhouse to inbound the ball to Russell on a give-and-go play. Jordan (season-high 25 points, 30 minutes) was a decoy and was through the lane to the other side of the court, drawing the attention that left the floor wide open for Stackhouse to glide to the rim without a purple jersey in sight.
"If I saw somebody was there I might have pulled but there was nobody there," said Stackhouse, who had a game-high 29 points and four spectacular highlight-reel baskets, including the final play.
O'Neal, who sat on the bench nursing a surgically repaired toe and said he expects to be back in one or two weeks, could only watch Stackhouse run into the lane he typically occupies. Without O'Neal, the Wizards had no fear of playing in the post, especially Jordan, who did most of his damage (9-of-14 shooting) from 17 feet and in.
Kobe Bryant, who was locked onto Jordan on the final inbound play and had gained a small measure of redemption by blocking one of Jordan's fourth-quarter shots after Jordan got the better of him earlier in the game, led the Lakers with 27 points. However he was prevented from any prolonged scoring sprees by Russell, Larry Hughes (13 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds).
Wizards Note: Russell (two points, seven rebounds, two steals) had to get three stitches across the bridge of his nose after getting hit late in the second quarter.