76ers 95, Wizards 94
The stage was set for a dramatic finish.
With his team down one with 5.4 seconds left, Michael Jordan, who made his first start of the season, took Jerry Stackhouse's inbounds pass from the sideline. He drove down the lane and, about six feet from the basket, pulled up in traffic -- and passed.
Bryon Russell, who offered up his starting job at small forward for Jordan, was set up under the basket but, in a bundle of traffic, couldn't handle the drop-off from Jordan. The final horn sounded with Washington losing its sixth straight game.
The Wizards fell, 95-94, to the Philadelphia 76ers last night before a 50th straight sellout at MCI Center. It's the team's longest losing streak since last February, when Washington (6-9) lost seven straight. The 76ers improved to 14-4.
"You've got to get a shot off," said Jordan, taking the blame for not being more decisive at the end. "I thought [Keith] Van Horn came over to help. B. Russell was right underneath the basket. It's one of those situations where you cannot not get a shot. I was trying to get to the hole and get fouled. I tried to do that. You've got to get a shot off."
Wizards Coach Doug Collins said the play was executed as it was drawn up, but that Jordan "took one extra dribble. He probably wishes he pulled up."
Jordan had four of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and played a season-high 37 minutes. He was inserted into the starting lineup after Russell went to Collins late this week and told him he felt he would be more help to the team coming off the bench.
Collins started rookie Jared Jeffries in place of Russell on Friday in a loss to Indiana. Jeffries went scoreless in five foul-plagued minutes in his first trip to his home state. With that not working, Collins turned to Jordan, who had not started since Feb. 24 of last season at Miami, the game before he underwent right knee surgery. Jordan played seven games after coming back from knee surgery, all as a reserve.
"I thought maybe [Jordan] can give us an emotional lift," Collins said. "You saw the crowd. I went with it, we lost, but I was happy with the way we played."
Jordan made the layup that brought Washington to 93-90 with 1 minute 4 seconds left. Stackhouse (season-high 38 points) hit a free throw and a three-pointer to pull the Wizards to 95-94 with 29 seconds left, and Jordan blocked a layup attempt by the sizzling Allen Iverson (35 points), giving Washington the last chance it needed.
"We can't sit here and harp on any bad points of this game," Stackhouse said. "It was a great game. It went to the wire and we had an opportunity to win. We came up short. We had a chance. That's all you want to do is give yourself a chance."
The Wizards had a chance, in large part, because Stackhouse scored 13 fourth-quarter points, digging Washington out of seven-point deficits six times in the period.
"I had a nice rhythm going all night," said Stackhouse, who made 15 of 25 shots and grabbed five rebounds. "I was inspired a little bit by some trash-talking in the first half."
He and Iverson got into it verbally in the second quarter, then got into it on offense in the fourth. Both battles were highly entertaining, but it was Iverson who captured the limelight. Twice after Stackhouse cut Philadelphia's lead to five, Iverson answered with 20- and 21-foot jump shots over Juan Dixon, who was draped on Iverson above the key.
"For a rookie, that's what you want out of him," Iverson said of Dixon. "Just come in and give them a lot of energy and just do smart things on the basketball court; or be as smart as possible, being that he's just a rookie."
Dixon was in the game down the stretch because he provided some much-needed offense (season-high 18 points), tough defense and poise in nearly all of his season-high 29 minutes. Point guard Larry Hughes and Tyronn Lue got into early foul trouble, and they got caught in bad spots in transition defense in the second half.
Philadelphia outscored Washington 23-4 in fast-break points, which contributed heavily to the 76ers' whopping 52-22 edge in points in the lane. The 76ers turned 17 Wizards turnovers -- 12 in the second half -- into 20 points.
"This is one of the teams in the NBA that is you turn that ball over, you'll pay the price for it," Collins said.
Wizards center Brendan Haywood had a strong game for Washington, scoring nine points, blocking three shots and grabbing five rebounds. Forward Charles Oakley, who played 20 minutes, grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and provided some needed muscle.
Iverson was backed up by point guard Eric Snow, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, including a clutch layup while being fouled by Oakley that gave Philadelphia a 95-90 lead with 47 seconds remaining.
Wizards Note: Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose, Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan and other members of the sniper task force were honored at the game.