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Jordan scores 11 in second game back

3/22/2002

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Memo from Bryon Russell to Michael Jordan:
Take that!

Karl Malone scored 23 points, and John Stockton had 19 as the
Utah Jazz beat the Washington Wizards 94-79 Thursday night in
Jordan's first game at the Delta Center since his winning shot in
Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

Russell scored 11 for the Jazz, including a 3-pointer from the
right corner with 3:10 to play as Jordan tried to blanket him. That
ended an 8-0 run after the Wizards trimmed Utah's 16-point lead to
83-75.

"Yeah! I got it right in his face," said Russell, who was
infamously burned by Jordan's big shot in the 1998 Finals.

"I hope you hear that, Michael, on your plane ride home,"
Russell added, looking into a television camera and smiling.
"Clock running down, I looked at him, sized him up a little bit
and I just shot the ball."

A moment later, he added: "I don't need to throw him down to
get a shot off."

It was a moment of vindication for Russell, who has dodged
questions about Jordan's return all season. He claims Jordan pushed
him on the game-winner in the 1998 Finals, but no foul was called.

"He hit that big shot over me in the corner," said Jordan, who
had 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting. "I think he got a little
gratification out of that."

Richard Hamilton scored 14 for Washington, which lost to Utah
for the seventh straight time.

Jordan played 22 minutes, his second game back after missing 12
following surgery on his right knee Feb. 27. Although flashbulbs
popped every time he shot, Jordan wasn't a factor.

"My knee feels good. My minutes are increasing," he said.
"Three weeks was a good conservative time. I've felt good, with no
setbacks."

Jordan hadn't returned to the arena since June 14, 1998, when he
stole the ball from Malone, slapped Russell away, stepped back and
drilled a 17-footer to give the Chicago Bulls their sixth NBA
title.

"I don't think he (Russell) wants to remember things like
that," Jordan said.

The two exchanged a greeting when Jordan came into the game with
5:11 on the clock in the first quarter.

"It was, `What's up? How you doing?"' Russell said.

"It was good to see him," Jordan said. "It was more or less
just saying hello."

Most of the time, Jordan looked like he was coming back from an
injury. He couldn't jump high enough to slam home an alley-oop from
Tyronn Lue early in the fourth quarter.

"I got a little tired in the second half, with the altitude and
not playing," he said. "But I got in a good rhythm in the second
quarter and that felt good."

Jordan retired after that 1998 basket and ended up on
Washington's management team, at least until his competitive drive
brought him back to play for the Wizards this season.

"I give Mike a lot of credit," Stockton said. "He's not a guy
that's going to sit back and wait for a lottery pick. He comes
trying to help his team get to the playoffs."

This time, though, there was no championship at stake when
Stockton and Malone squared off against Jordan. In fact, both teams
are battling for the last playoff spot in their respective
conferences.

Game notes
NBA Commissioner David Stern watched from the stands. Like
Jordan, he was back in the building for the first time since Game 6
of the 1998 Finals. ... There was a flurry of technicals in the
final three minutes. They went to Hamilton, Malone, Wizards coach
Doug Collins and Jazz forward Donyell Marshall. ... The crowd of 19,911
was only the third sellout this season. ... The Wizards went 4-3 on
their road trip through the Western Conference. ... Malone was
2-for-2 from 3-point range. He has never hit three in a game.