Hawks 101, Wizards 100
Three games from the end of his playing career, Washington Wizards guard Michael Jordan hit what appeared to be yet another game-winning shot -- a 13-footer that gave Washington a one-point lead with 18 seconds left.
That was too much time. Atlanta swingman Ira Newble, who Jordan victimized on the basket that brought the sold-out MCI Center crowd to its feet, threw down an uncontested, follow-up dunk that gave the Hawks a 101-100 victory last night.
Washington had eight seconds left to counter, and Jordan had the ball in his hands as the clock wound down. However the magic had been used up. His 20-footer from the top of the key fell errant and Atlanta had its second, final-second victory over the Wizards in just more than a week.
Newble joked with teammate Darvin Ham that he was the "Jordan stopper."
"He's retiring so I can say that," said Newble, who scored 21 points, to tie Jason Terry for the game high.
Said Jordan: "He can say that. Since we won't see him again, he can say anything he wants. That's pretty cool."
The Wizards fell to 37-43. The Hawks improved to 34-46.
Jordan, who finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, wasn't really supposed to be on the floor that late in the game. Earlier in the day, he and Coach Doug Collins talked and decided that Jordan would play about 15 minutes in the first half, roughly half of the third quarter and then judge from there if he would play again.
At halftime, though, the plans changed. Jordan said he wanted to be in the game at the end, which was a bonus to fans whose last chance to see Jordan at home is Monday against New York.
Jordan and Collins "had a little discussion at halftime, but I said I want to play to win, to be there when the choice is there for us to try to win the game," Jordan said.
Jordan played the final eight minutes of the fourth quarter, scoring six points, including a high-flying dunk with two minutes left that brought the Wizards to 99-96. Washington pulled within one after Larry Hughes made two free throws after being taken to the ground by Dion Glover on a breakaway layup attempt.
Glover was tagged with a flagrant foul and ejected. Collins said Glover was apologetic and felt bad about the hard foul. Jordan's 13-footer gave the Wizards their first lead since late in the third quarter, but Newble threw down Terry's miss to send Washington to yet another late-game loss.
"What a way to finish the game," Collins said. "We hadn't had any of those shots go in for us this year. A lot of teams are making those against us."
Just more than a week ago, Atlanta forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim made a desperation heave with six-tenths of a second remaining to give the Hawks a 91-89 victory. That Wizards loss backed them into a position where they had to win the rest of their games and hope Milwaukee or Orlando lost to make the playoffs.
The game between the two draft lottery teams didn't mean much, and Washington opened like a team that had been eliminated from the playoffs Friday night. The Wizards trailed by 14 and looked like a rag-tag team unable to piece together consecutive offensive sequences or play any semblance of solid team defense.
Friday night "was a huge letdown in terms of knowing that we can't get into the postseason," Collins said. "I was happy our guys fought back."
In the third quarter, Washington got out to a quick start to tie the score at 56 on a jump shot by forward Christian Laettner (team-high 18 points, game-high 11 rebounds). A 22-foot jump shot by Laettner midway through the third gave Washington its biggest lead at 64-58. The Hawks chipped away at the deficit then closed the quarter with a 9-0 run to take a 78-72 edge into the fourth quarter.
Washington fell behind by 12 before making the run to create the late drama.
Hughes had 16 points, and Tyronn Lue and Bobby Simmons had 13 apiece. Simmons started his second straight game for Jerry Stackhosue, who was not in uniform because of a sore right knee.
Wizards Notes: Jordan and assistant coach Patrick Ewing bought retiring assistant coach John Bach a new Rolls-Royce. They gave the 77-year-old his wheels yesterday afternoon in front of the whole team.
"I was shocked," said Bach, who has coached basketball on every level for more than 50 years. "As an old-timer, I felt I'd like to get a used, old Rolls-Royce. Between Patrick and Michael, they make a lot of people's dreams come true. I'm very happy. I can't tell you how much it meant. Fifty years, you get more out of basketball than you give. I'm just shocked by their generosity. Shocked." . . .
Army staff sergeant Tarik Jackson and Army specialist Jason Poudrier, who were injured in the War in Iraq, attended last night's game as guests of the Wizards. . . .
Former North Carolina basketball coach Matt Doherty, a college teammate of Jordan's at North Carolina, was in attendance. Doherty recently resigned amid controversy.