DALLAS (AP) -- The tendinitis in Michael Jordan's right knee is still bothering him on his jump shots. He's having no problem
leaping to the rim, though.
Jordan's only baskets through three quarters Saturday night came
on vintage air moves, then the excitement of a close fourth quarter
got him back in sync to lead the Washington Wizards past the Dallas Mavericks 102-95.
Jordan scored 15 of his 21 points in the final period, including a three-point play that put Washington ahead for good. He also tied his season high with 12 rebounds and added four assists and four steals.
"As soon as my knee gets calmed down, I'll be OK," said Jordan, playing his second game since missing one to heal his aching joint. "My shot's not there yet, and that has to do with my legs."
Jordan made an early dunk, then misfired on six straight jumpers. Another dunk and a nifty layup were followed by another 0-for-6 slump, putting him at 3-for-15. He had six points at halftime and was shut out in the third quarter.
The Mavericks couldn't take advantage because they took 2½
quarters to figure out how to get their offense going without
leading scorer and rebounder Dirk Nowitzki, who was out with an ankle injury.
Washington led by 21 early in the third quarter when Dallas finally started to rally. A 22-4 run trimmed the Wizards' lead to 68-64 going into the final period.
Jordan opened the quarter with a 10-footer that hit both sides of the rim and fell in, then hit a pair of free throws and a turnaround jumper.
After the Mavericks tied the game at 82, Jordan answered with a flying lay-in and a free throw. The Wizards never trailed again en route to a second straight victory and their fourth win in six games. One of the two losses in that stretch was the game Jordan missed.
"I was able to make some good baskets in the fourth quarter," Jordan said. "My responsibility is plugging holes wherever the team needs me."
Jordan made sure his young teammates didn't blow this lead by
constantly directing them on the court. They responded by making
smart plays and sinking their free throws. Washington made 16 of 19
foul shots in the fourth, with Jordan hitting his seven attempts.
"Michael said, 'We're going to win this game, and whoever
doesn't want to be out there can sub themselves out,"' said
Richard Hamilton, who scored 19 points. "He just let guys know
that this is our time to win. That's what MJ does."
Dallas, which wiped out a 21-point deficit against Golden State
earlier this week, never led, yet kept coming close.
Johnny Newman tried doing it again for the Mavs with about 5
seconds left, but his shot missed and Jordan grabbed the rebound.
Jordan hit two last free throws with 2.9 seconds left, giving one more thrill to the record crowd of 20,241 that came to see his return. It broke the mark of 18,255 set on his last visit in March 1998.
"The crowd showed me great respect and I appreciate that," he said. "We were able to take the crowd out of the game early and that was big for us."
In the first minute, Jordan drew a foul, grabbed two rebounds, threw an assist and capped his quick spurt with a dunk. He wouldn't score again, though, for more than 15 minutes.
His second dunk came on a fast break, then was followed by a
layup in which he spun backward into 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley, flipped the ball over Bradley's outstretched arms and spun it in
off the backboard.
Jordan also showed good hands, grabbing a ball from Adrian Griffin in the lane and sneaking into the middle to snatch a crosscourt pass and walking away with a wide smile.
"It was a situation we didn't want to be in, where they can have Jordan as a big factor," Dallas coach Don Nelson said. "He delivered once again. We did the best we could on him."
Dallas' comeback was helped by Eduardo Najera, who scored eight
points, and Wang Zhizhi, who had nine in his first game of the
season, one that was televised live in his native China.
Juwan Howard, playing his first game against Washington since
being traded to Dallas by Jordan, had four points and six rebounds
in 23 minutes. Because of Nowitzki's injury, Howard was starting
for the first time after coming off the bench in eight straight
The four players the Wizards got from the Mavericks for
Howard -- Christian Laettner, Hubert Davis, Courtney Alexander and
Etan Thomas -- combined for 10 points. ... The game also was
televised live in Germany in anticipation of Nowitzki vs. Jordan. It ended up being the second game Nowitzki has missed because of injury this season. ... The theme to "Space Jam" was playing when both teams came onto the court. It was surely wasn't for Bradley, who appeared in the movie.