<
>

Dixon, Wizards unable to steal victory from Pacers

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Jordan played more minutes. Jerry Stackhouse missed a bunch more shots. Juan Dixon set a steals record in his coming-out game, giving the Washington Wizards hope despite their game-long funk.

As for the Indiana Pacers, they had Jermaine O'Neal -- and that was plenty.

O'Neal had a season-high 26 points and a career-high 21 rebounds as the Pacers won for the 10th time in 11 games, beating the Wizards 88-84 Tuesday night.

"I was joking around with the guys before the game, and I said I was going to spray the place up tonight,'' O'Neal said. "But I was just joking with them. I had a little extra bounce to my step, but overall I was just focusing in on getting all the rebounds and trying to score with Michael Jordan.''

O'Neal scored eight points in a 10-0 run that opened the game. The Pacers never trailed, although Jordan and Dixon led a charge that cut a 19-point deficit to one in the second half.

Reggie Miller, playing his first game of the season after sitting out the first 12 with an ankle injury, started and scored 13 points. Jamaal Tinsley added nine points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.

Jordan said Monday he wanted to play more to get the Wizards
winning again, regardless of how it might affect his aging knees.
He got his wish, entering the game earlier and matching his
season-high with 34 minutes and scoring a season-high 28 points on
10-for-21 shooting.

But it wasn't enough. Washington has dropped four straight, prompting coach Doug Collins to call a Thanksgiving Day practice.

"The turkey will have to wait,'' Collins said. "Because we've got to get on the floor and get better. We cannot dig ourselves a hole that we cannot get out of. Not just practice, but practice right. When we're supposed to screen, screen. When we're supposed to block out, block out. When we're supposed to foul, foul.''

There's also an emerging trend that as Stackhouse goes, so go the Wizards. He shot just 2-of-16 and finished with a season-low six points. He is 6-for-35 in his last two games.

"You hit those stretches sometimes where the rim seems small, and the ball's not going in,'' Stackhouse said.

The Wizards were so out of kilter in the first half that Collins tried many combinations -- including extended minutes for rookies Dixon and Jared Jeffries -- trying to get the team on track.

Dixon, getting more time because of an injury to Larry Hughes,
finished with a season-high 24 minutes and scored a career-high 15
points. His six fourth-quarter steals set a franchise record. The former Maryland star's defense ignited the comeback that fell just short, thrilling a crowd that regularly shouts "We Want Juan!''

"We were walking around in a fog there,'' Jordan said. "And he got the crowd in just by going into the game. He made some big shots.''

Jordan and Dixon scored 13 points in a 17-6 run that cut the
Pacers' lead to 71-70 with 4:53 to play, but Miller answered with a
3-pointer.

The Wizards got within one once again, but never had a chance to
take the lead. Jordan missed back-to-back shots as the Pacers got
the lead back to five, and Jordan also missed two of four free
throws in the final minute.

Collins had planned for Jordan to average about 30 minutes this season after the wear and tear on his knees cut Jordan's season short last spring.

Jordan usually enters the game with six minutes left in the
first quarter, but he was off the bench at the 9:40 mark with the
Pacers leading 6-0. The lead continued to grow, however, as the
Wizards missed 12 of their first 14 shots and played porous inside
defense.

Jordan had a couple of nice runs, including back-to-back baskets
near the end of both the first and second quarters, but the Pacers
kept the Wizards at bay, leading by as many as 15 before taking a
45-32 lead into locker room at halftime.

Jordan also made three 3-pointers. He had only two for the entire season entering the game.

"Physically I feel good,'' Jordan said. "It's Doug's call,
obviously. I told him don't worry about me. I'll let him know if
I'm getting worn down. When I start hitting 3s, you know I'm
feeling good.''

Game notes
Tyronn Lue was 1-for-9 from the field as he started for the first time this season in place of Hughes (strained right wrist). ... Miller was activated from the injured list before the game. To make room, the Pacers placed guard Erick Strickland on the injured list with tendinitis in his right Achilles tendon. ... ... The Wizards are 0-7 when trailing after three quarters. The Pacers are 10-0 when leading after three.