Wizards 100, Celtics 95
Jerry Stackhouse brought the Washington Wizards up the mountain and Michael Jordan got them over the top, capping Washington's hard-fought, 100-95 victory over the Boston Celtics tonight with a clutch three-point play with 33 seconds left before 18,624 at FleetCenter.
Jordan made a 16-foot jumper from the left wing after pump-faking Eric Williams twice to draw the foul -- a call many wearing green and white deemed questionable. Jordan made the ensuing free throw to put the Wizards up 96-95, their first lead since early in the fourth quarter.
Washington (17-17) would not trail again en route to its fourth straight win, which put the Wizards at .500 for the first time since they were 6-6 on Nov. 22. They overcame a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit and were down by 10 in the third before Stackhouse (game-high 37 points) and Jordan (19 points) brought them back.
"I really see this team starting to form together now," said Jordan, who added a team-high 11 rebounds and seven assists. "There's so many ways I can help this team, and it's not just scoring the ball. Trying to talk them through what winning is all about, how to stay focused, how to play solid defense, how to control the tempo and how to win on the road."
Wizards Coach Doug Collins was impressed with his team's resilience.
"It was a great team win," Collins said. "We went down, we regrouped. Jerry was tremendous in the fourth period when we needed him. Michael hit the big shot to put us ahead, but it was our defense, I thought, that was the difference in the game."
Leading Washington's riveting fourth-quarter comeback was Stackhouse. He scored 16 in the period to rally the Wizards. He single-handedly brought Washington back midway through the fourth, scoring nine points in an 11-2 run that allowed the Wizards to bounce back from an 89-82 hole.
"I got in a good rhythm there, and it started from the first half," Stackhouse said. "For the most part late in the game we did what we had to do. Guys stepped up and made shots."
Stackhouse said part of his motivation was a near altercation he had with Paul Pierce at the end of the first half, when he was called for a flagrant foul that started a flurry of trash talk and technical fouls.
Pierce blocked Stackhouse's mid-range jumper with 28 seconds left in the half. After Boston regained possession, the Wizards had a foul to give, and Stackhouse fouled Pierce hard at the top of the key as Pierce was set to make a move to the basket.
Pierce, who had 15 first-half points, and Stackhouse, who led the Wizards with 12 points in the first half, started jawing, and Celtics Coach Jim O'Brien stepped on the court to plead his case vehemently for a flagrant foul against Stackhouse, which was assessed. O'Brien also was tagged with a technical foul, as was Pierce.
Stackhouse, who made both technical free throws, was assessed a flagrant foul, and Piece countered with two free throws to give the Celtics their halftime margin. The emotional sequence provided the fuel for the spirited second half.
"We've been real competitive ever since he's come into the league," Stackhouse said, referring to Pierce. "It's always fun to get into those kind of battles, but it's all left on the floor."
Larry Hughes, who missed all five of his first-half shots, added 16 points and five assists. Forward Christian Laettner added six points and six rebounds and also provided some clutch leadership and energy in the third quarter when it looked like the game was slipping away from the Wizards.
Collins also used Charles Oakley in the waning moments for the second consecutive game, relying on his poise and toughness. Oakley helped limit Boston to 32 percent shooting in the fourth by roughing up any player who came down the lane. He recorded four fouls in seven minutes and grabbed two rebounds.
"I can't take them home with me," Oakley said of his six allotted fouls.
On the issue of fouls, the Wizards took 41 free throws, making 27, while Boston, which lives and dies by the three-point shot (eight of 32), made 15 of 16 free throws.
"Neither team gave an inch," O'Brien said.