Wizards 107, Bulls 82
Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan scored just 10 points tonight in his first trip this season to his longtime home of Chicago, but it wasn't because he was nervous or because he had a woeful shooting night. He just didn't have to exert himself.
Jordan's Wizards seized control of the game midway through the first quarter, blew it open in the third and allowed him to sit out the fourth period of their 107-82 blasting of the Bulls before a sellout crowd of 23,049 at United Center.
Jordan played 30 minutes, finishing with five assists and five rebounds in the process, which wasn't enough for a crowd that spent more than two minutes during his introduction applauding the man who led the Bulls to six NBA championships in the 1990s. With just more than four minutes left, the crowd chanted "We want Mike. We want Mike."
"They haven't forgotten and I haven't forgotten them," said Jordan, who made 4 of 11 shots. "When I'm not around here my mind is focused on representing my franchise, but anytime I step in this building, it's tough not to see me in red and white."
Jordan deferred to teammates, who ran roughshod over a Bulls' defense that was so lax Jordan's statue outside United Center might have been able to get to the rim. The Wizards (15-17) shot 53 percent while Jordan said he focused on shutting down Bulls catalyst Jalen Rose. Rose finished with a team-high 26 points, but 11 of those points came in the fourth quarter after Jordan held him to 5-of-19 shooting through three periods (15 points).
"Everyone was hoping to see a 40- or 50-point night but it's not fun if you lose," Jordan said. "I was just trying to keep Jalen Rose from scoring."
On this night of nostalgia, Jordan joked with former teammate and current Bulls coach Bill Cartwright during the third quarter, when Washington turned a 14-point lead into a 28-point bulge and it led to several cascades of boos from the crowd. Cartwright was really in a joking mood, as his team shot just 36 percent, got outrebounded 53-32 and made just 12 of 26 free throws.
"You have to ignore the hoopla," Cartwright said. "You have to compete and you cannot get distracted."
Washington guard Jerry Stackhouse scored 15 of his team-high 28 points in the third quarter. Forward Kwame Brown added a career-high 20 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds in just 27 minutes before being ejected for the first time in his career. With just more than a minute left Brown received two technical fouls for arguing a foul call. Brown said referee Joe Crawford told him in an expletive-filled manner to keep his mouth shut, prompting Brown to respond in a way that earned him his first career ejection. Several people on the Wizards bench backed Brown's claim.
Other than that incident, Brown had another solid game. He said he was fired up to play against Bulls second-year player Tyson Chandler, who, like Brown, was selected straight from high school. Chandler, who was selected in the 2001 NBA draft one position behind Brown (the No. 1 overall pick), finished with eight points and four rebounds.
"All that stuff that was said this summer, he was saying he should be the number one pick and all that," Brown said. "I didn't say anything. I remembered it though. I just wanted to play hard. It wasn't my night. It was M.J.'s night."
During the pregame introduction that ebbed and flowed, Jordan's face tensed for a few seconds before he broke into a prolonged smile.
"I was a little embarrassed," Jordan said. "The guys were waiting for me to cry. I wasn't going to cry. We had a game to play and it's hard to play basketball when you've got tears in your eyes."
The public address announcer never interrupted the ovation and the lights stayed on until the clapping finally waned. In Jordan's initial return with the Wizards last season the Bulls came under fire from fans and media members for turning down the lights after a few moments of applause and not letting longtime P.A. announcer Ray Clay introduce Jordan the same way he had during Jordan's 13 seasons here.
"I was so pleased that the Bulls' management allowed it to keep going," Wizards Coach Doug Collins said. "I think we all look at Michael as being super human and not having emotions. I can tell you, he was touched. He loves the people in Chicago. Kudos to Bulls management to let that go and to let those people tell him thank you for all the wonderful things he's done in Chicago."