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Grizzlies halt worst opening skid in club history

11/25/2002

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Memphis' first sellout crowd of the season
got to see Michael Jordan play and the Grizzlies win.

Earl Watson came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points
as the Grizzlies beat Jordan and the Washington Wizards 85-74
Saturday night.

"It was just a matter of time for us to collectively come to a
point where we made it happen,'' Watson said.

The Grizzlies gave Hubie Brown a victory in his sixth game as
coach and ended the worst season-opening losing streak in franchise
history. Memphis avoided the NBA record of 17 straight losses at
the beginning of a season held by Miami (1988) and the Los Angeles
Clippers (1999).

It was Brown's first NBA victory since 1986 when he went 4-12
coaching the New York Knicks.

"We all know we didn't win the World Series, but what happens
now is it takes a little pressure off the kids in the community.
That's what I'm happy about,'' Brown said.

Watson, a second-year guard out of UCLA, handed out five assists
with no turnovers, and Wesley Person had 14 points off the bench.
Gordan Giricek had 11 points, and Lorenzen Wright and Stromile
Swift each had 10.

Jordan led Washington with 20 points. Kwame Brown had 14
points and Tyronn Lue had 11. Jerry Stackhouse had a season-low
nine points as he went 4-for-19 from the floor.

"It's definitely a bad loss for us, and it leaves a bad taste
in your mouth,'' Stackhouse said. "It's an embarrassing loss. We
lost to the worst team in the league who hadn't won a game yet.''

Washington coach Doug Collins downplayed becoming the Grizzlies'
first victim. He was more concerned that his Wizards only got to
the free throw line 10 times, well below their average of 27
attempts. He also didn't like how they threw up quick shots from
outside, going 2-for-13 from 3-point range.

"We're a team that's marked because we've got Michael Jordan on
our team, and everybody's going to get excited to play against us.
... I just didn't think we played with poise. We were just rushing
everything. We started out rushing, and we never got in any kind of
rhythm. We came apart at the end, and that's what's discouraging,''
Collins said.

Memphis outshot Washington 50 percent to 38 percent.

Washington, which has lost three straight games, last led 51-50
with 4:38 left in the third. Watson started the Grizzlies on a 12-2
run with six points, including two free throws for a 62-53 lead
with 10:10 left in the game.

Jordan tried to rally the Wizards as he scored 10 points in the
fourth quarter. He pulled them to 73-72 when he stole the ball from
rookie Drew Gooden and dunked with 3:29 to go. Lue hit a jumper
that tied it at 74 with 2:57 left, but that was as close as the
Wizards would get as Jordan missed three shots down the stretch.

Watson broke the tie with the Grizzlies' only 3 from the top of
the key with 2:38 remaining, and he added four free throws in the
final 30 seconds as Memphis finished with an 11-0 run.

Brown had been treating his first six games over nine days as if
they were exhibitions, trying to patiently evaluate his talent and
learn about his team.

Some of the Wizards aren't nearly as patient. Charles Oakley
said they need to look at themselves and quit having mental lapses
on the court. Jordan, who said the Grizzlies deserved to win,
pointed out it's still early in the season.

"As talented as we are on paper, we are not that talented on
the court with each other,'' Jordan said.

Memphis opened the game by scoring the first four points, led
24-21 after the first period was up 40-34 late in the second. But
Oakley scored four points as the Wizards had the final eight points
for a 42-40 halftime lead.

The Grizzlies had their first sellout in seven home games, but
the crowd of 19,351 stayed relatively quiet until 5:39 left in the
first quarter when the fans cheered Jordan subbing in for Bryon
Russell. He didn't disappoint as he hit a 21-foot jumper, then a
20-footer.

Jordan made his first three shots and had six points in the
quarter. But he had just one basket in a second quarter that
included a missed layup and a turnover.

Game notes
Washington now is 0-6 when trailing after three quarters.
The Wizards also are 1-5 on the road. ... The Wizards blocked a
season-low one shot courtesy of Brown. ... Washington had been 5-0
when outrebounding opponents. They outrebounded Memphis 41-36. ...
The 74 points allowed were a season-low for Memphis. The previous
was 84 by Denver on Nov. 9. ... Pau Gasol had a team-high 15
rebounds for Memphis, but he had just seven points. It was only the
second time this season he has failed to score in double figures.