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Jordan lights up Kukoc, Wiz on roll

12/20/2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Instead of playing the sidekick, Michael
Jordan torched an old one.

In one of the most captivating performances of his second
comeback, Jordan blistered former Chicago Bulls teammate Toni Kukoc
and scored 23 points as the Washington Wizards beat the Atlanta
Hawks 103-76 Wednesday night for their seventh straight win.

"I told Toni Kukoc I was going to be wearing ice by the end of
the third quarter," Jordan said from the bench during
fourth-quarter garbage time.

It was the Wizards largest margin of victory of the season, and
their 12-12 record is their first .500 or better mark this late or
later in the season since they finished 42-40 in 1997-98. The
winning streak is their longest since the 1995-96 season, when they
were called the Bullets.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Kukoc had
19 points for the Hawks, who lost at home to Indiana the night
before.

In recent days, Jordan said he was becoming more of a
"sidekick" as his supporting cast improved around him. But he was
definitely the star during the second quarter, making nine straight
shots and leaving Kukoc so frustrated that Hawks coach Lon Kruger
switched assignments and put Abdur-Rahim on Jordan instead.

After a 1-for-6 start, Jordan finished 11-for-19 from the field
and had six assists in just 27 minutes. He scored 18 points in the
second quarter as the Wizards took a 49-33 halftime lead.

Jordan, with Kukoc guarding him again, had two assists and a
three-point play in a 10-0 run to open the second half, giving the
Wizards a 26-point lead. The score was 76-55 after three quarters,
and Jordan was able to rest his sore knees in the fourth.

Kukoc accounted for four field goals and an assist in Atlanta's
first five baskets. But he faded as Jordan warmed up, and the Hawks
scored only one basket in nearly 9 minutes in Washington's 13-2
run.

Jordan started his run with a 16-footer with 6:41 to go in the
first half. He followed with another jumper over Kukoc, laid in an
alley-oop, put a sweet shot off the glass and made five other shots
before he finally missed again with his first shot of the third
quarter.

Game notes
The Wizards will go for eight in a row Friday night at
Orlando. They haven't won eight straight since 1983. ... Wizards
rookie center Brendan Haywood had a career-high seven blocks. ...
The Hawks scored a season-low 33 points in the first half. It also
was a season-low for a Washington opponent. .... The Wizards'
seven-game winning streak in 1996 came entirely at home from March
30 to April 14.