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Wizards stay strong at MCI

1/9/2002

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In a rare visit to the MCI Center last season,
president of basketball operations Michael Jordan threw a tantrum
in the owners' box while watching the Wizards blow a 21-point lead
and lose their annual home game against the Clippers.

That game was fresh in Jordan's mind when the Clippers returned
Tuesday night. Back in uniform, Jordan had 18 points, 10 rebounds
and eight assists to lead Washington to a 96-88 victory.

"The thing that I didn't like about that game was the attitude
that the players had, an attitude not to lose instead of going out
and winning the game," Jordan said. "That's the first time I
really got angry with the attitude with this team. I felt the
attitude was not proper for the franchise to turn itself around."

Washington was 4-15 after that Clippers loss in December 2000.
By contrast, Tuesday's victory was the fourth straight for the
Wizards (18-14) and moved them within one victory of their total
from all last season.

"So far we've proven that we can surprise myself," Jordan
said. "I just like the way the confidence on our team is."

Before the game, Jordan addressed for the first time the divorce
petition filed Friday by his wife, Juanita, saying that "work is a
great avenue" to deal with such personal issues. After the game,
he was asked if a reconciliation was possible.

"That's none of your business," he said. "Quite frankly, I
don't want to talk about my personal life. ... That's something
probably we'll work on. I don't think I want to sit here and go
through that. We have kids, obviously, and we want to make sure
that's the focus. Outside of that, when the time comes, you guys
will hear about it."

Jordan recovered from a 1-for-8 first quarter to make nine of 24
shots in 42 minutes. It helped that Lamar Odom, who played well
early and did a credible job defensively on Jordan, left the game
for good in the second quarter with the stomach flu.

"The guy's our best all-around player," Los Angeles coach
Alvin Gentry said. "If you took M.J. off his team, it's the same
as taking Lamar off ours."

The best Jordan highlight came midway through the third quarter
when he hung in the air near the free-throw line and couldn't shoot
because of a double team. Just before he landed, Jordan spotted
Jahidi White and passed to the big center for a dunk.

Jordan's supporting cast included Popeye Jones (season-high 16
points), Chris Whitney (18) and Hubert Davis (16). Jones scored
eight in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back jumpers in a
10-0 run after the Clippers had cut a 12-point lead to two.

"Michael didn't beat us," Gentry said. "He was 9-for-24.
That's all you can hope for. He didn't have one of those nights
where he had 50. I thought Popeye Jones was as important as
anybody."

Jeff McInnis scored a season-high 27 points to lead the
Clippers, who were blown out Monday night in Philadelphia and have
lost six straight road games to Atlantic Division teams. Their last
road win over an Atlantic team was last season's 93-88 win at the
MCI Center, the game that got Jordan so upset.

The Clippers led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, and the
Wizards had 12-point lead in the third in a free-flowing game that
showcased Los Angeles' young speed.

Eric Piatkowski's 3-pointer with 4:58 to play pulled the
Clippers within 79-77, but a 3-pointer by Whitney and the two jump
shots by Jones put the Wizards back in control.

"We're such a completely different team at home than we are on
the road," Gentry said. "That can't be the case. We have to find
a way to play with the same energy and confidence we do at home."

Game notes
Washington has won seven in a row at home. ... The Clippers
are two games into a six-game road trip.