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Jordan scores 45 minus two starters

2/2/2003

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Michael Jordan's season-high 45 points alone
weren't enough. He needed help, and he finally got it in the fourth
quarter.

With starters Jerry Stackhouse and Larry Hughes injured, Jordan
carried the Washington Wizards on his shoulders from the opening
whistle and rested just four minutes in Saturday night's 109-104
victory over the New Orleans Hornets.

"With two key starters out, I had to step my game up early --
just to get some momentum," Jordan said. "My offense ignited
everything energy-wise, and the guys fed off me. I was going to try
to pull anybody along with me as much as I could.

"In the second half, things changed. The first half was me; the
second half was everybody."

Jordan, who turns 40 this month, was 18-for-33 from the field,
9-for-10 from the free-throw line. His 44 minutes were his most in
regulation this season and second only to the 53 he played in a
double-overtime game against Indiana. The only time he sat _ a
four-minute stretch in the second quarter -- the Hornets went on a
14-4 to take their first lead.

"Everybody talks about his age and everything," said Jamal Mashburn, who led the Hornets with a season-high 39 points. "The
guy still can play. You don't get 30,000-plus points without
knowing how to play. He didn't do it all on athletic ability, even
though that's all they show on SportsCenter sometimes."

Despite Jordan's hot game, the Wizards trailed 82-76 after three
quarters. Coach Doug Collins' instructions in the huddle: "I don't
want you to get that 'floating Michael eye.' We've got to go to
other guys on the floor. He's helped us to this point, and we have
to have other guys help finish."

Then the supporting cast -- mostly young players who have been
frustratingly inconsistent -- chipped in as Washington opened the
fourth with a 19-4 run that was perhaps the team's best stretch of
basketball all season.

Rookie Juan Dixon hit a big 3-pointer and converted a steal into
a layup. Kwame Brown had four rebounds in the quarter and huge
block on a drive by David Wesley. Tyronn Lue scored six points, and
Etan Thomas bruised the opposition with his inside play.

"Once MJ was on fire, we couldn't let him work that hard,"
Brown said. "You've got to do something -- he scored all the
points."

Defense was a big part of the victory for the Wizards, who had
lost five of six. They had 13 steals and forced 23 turnovers.

"If we would have handled the ball well, we would have won the
game," New Orleans coach Paul Silas said.

Wesley scored 16 for the Hornets, who have dropped four of five.
They are 1-3 since Baron Davis went out with a knee injury.

The 19-4 run put the Wizards ahead 95-86. The Hornets twice cut
the lead to three, but Washington went 6-for-6 from the free-throw
line in the final minute to seal the victory.

Stackhouse, the Wizards' leading scorer, has a pulled left groin
and will return after next weekend's All-Star break. Hughes has a
bruised left knee and is day-to-day.

Jordan scored four of Washington's first five baskets and had an
assist on the other one. He went 6-for-9 from the field and 4-for-4
from the line for 16 points in the first quarter.

It made little difference who was guarding him. He shot jumpers
over Wesley, easily worked through screens to lose Courtney
Alexander and drove to the basket on Mashburn.

The Hornets, meanwhile, got their points three at a time to open
the second half, with four 3-pointers and three three-point plays.
Mashburn's jumper put New Orleans ahead 78-68 late in the period,
but Washington cut it to six by the start of the fourth.

Game notes
There was a moment of silence before the game for the seven
astronauts who died Saturday morning aboard the space shuttle
Columbia. ... Hornets center Elden Campbell returned as a reserve
after missing two games with a strained neck muscle. ... Hornets
center Robert Traylor, who had made only 18 of 30 free throws all
season, went 11-for-12 from the line. ... Alexander, who had a
difficult season last year with the Wizards, said he had this game
circled on his calendar after missing the earlier meeting in New
Orleans with an injury. He scored six points in 15 minutes and said
his time in Washington wasn't happy because he didn't mesh with
coach Doug Collins. "I really wasn't ready for his personality,"
Alexander said. "I think you have to have a strong mind-state to
deal with his personality. Not that he's a bad person or a bad
coach, I just wasn't ready for it."

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