Hawks 91, Wizards 89
-- Six-tenths of a second never seemed so long for the Washington Wizards. In that time, Atlanta Hawks forward Alan Henderson threw a cross-court pass to forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who caught it over his right shoulder and hoisted a jump hook toward the basket over Michael Jordan.
The shot looked long. But with the horn sounding and the illuminated red lights around the backboard signaling the end of regulation, the ball clanged off the back rim, went two feet high above the basket and fell straight through the net. The game-winner, reviewed by referees courtside on instant replay, gave Atlanta a 91-89 victory tonight before a sellout crowd at Philips Arena.
"That's how coach drew up the play," Abdur-Rahim said. "I don't take any credit."
Said Wizards Coach Doug Collins: "I thought [Abdur-Rahim] initially wasn't even going to touch the ball. I thought it was going to go out of bounds and we were going to get it at the other end with six-tenths of a second to go. He made a great reach of it and it happened to go in the basket."
In that bat of an eye, Washington's playoff hopes took another, and perhaps final, hit. Officially, the Wizards are 21/2 games back of the idle Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Unofficially, this loss to yet another one of the league's lottery teams could have done them in.
"You didn't want to come in and lose a game when you felt like you needed a game bad," said Jordan, who scored 10 of the Wizards' 12 points in the game's final four minutes. He finished with 22 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists.
Jordan could have given the Wizards the lead at the end, but he missed an 18-footer that was rebounded by the Hawks, who called a timeout and selected the game-winning play. That was just the second shot Jordan missed out of seven in the fourth quarter.
"I missed a great opportunity," Jordan said.
Washington dropped its fourth straight to fall to 34-41. The Hawks snapped a three-game losing streak and improved to 30-45.
Wizards swingman Jerry Stackhouse said Washington has stalled because players are spending too much time worrying about every strategic detail instead of getting into the flow of the game and building from there.
"It's deeper than what you see," said Stackhouse (15 points). "It's a lot of pressure. It puts a lot of the onus on every possession and every play down the floor. That's no way to play basketball. Basketball is a game of instinct. You shouldn't be out there having to think about everything you do. That's what's going on with our team right now. The focus isn't on so much the game; it's on the circumstances and the situation around the game. You can't play basketball that way."
Washington trailed by 17 points before Jordan almost single-handedly forced overtime.
Abdur-Rahim led all scorers with 24 points. Hawks guard Jason Terry added 18 points and 10 assists. Guard Tyronn Lue added 14 points. Forward Christian Laettner had 10 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
The Hawks turned a nine-point lead entering the fourth quarter into a 77-64 edge less than a minute into the period. But a three-point play by Wizards forward Bobby Simmons (nine points) got Washington within 10. That was the play that finally got the Wizards going. From there, their defense denied any easy shots, Kwame Brown gave Washington an interior presence and Jordan found his stroke. The Wizards went on a 21-8 run to tie the game at 85 on Jordan's drive, step-back, fadeaway jumper with 1 minute 40 seconds remaining. The game was tied twice more, once on a jumper by Jordan again on a jumper by Laettner.
However, the Hawks had an answer for everything Washington brought their way, including the shot that could have ended the Wizards' postseason bid.