Final

Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 12/7

Game 1: Saturday, December 7th
Knicks97Final
Wizards100
Game 2: Saturday, January 11th
Wizards89Final
Knicks84
Game 3: Sunday, March 9th
Wizards96Final
Knicks97
Game 4: Monday, April 14th
Knicks93Final
Wizards79

Wizards 96

(30-33, 9-20 away)

Knicks 97

(28-35, 19-14 home)

    1:00 PM ET, March 9, 2003

    Madison Square Garden, New York, NY

    1 2 3 4 T
    WSH 21 32 21 2296
    NY 26 30 26 1597

    Top Performers

    WSH: M. Jordan 39 Pts, 8 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

    NY: A. Houston 28 Pts, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl

    Jordan scores 39 points in final game at Garden

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Even though he didn't beat them, Michael Jordan proved he can still rattle the New York Knicks.

    Michael Jordan

    Michael Jordan, right, picks Shandon Anderson's pocket in the first quarter Sunday.

    Jordan finished one point shy of 40 in what was likely his final game at Madison Square Garden as New York blew all but one point of a late 15-point lead and came away with a 97-96 victory Sunday.

    "We were throwing the ball all over the place. We weren't executing the trap,'' Latrell Sprewell said. "When you're up, you have a tendency to not be as focused. That was the case with us.''

    The sight of a certain player wearing No. 23 probably had something to do with it, too.

    Recent Knicks history is littered with examples of them falling short of their goals every time Jordan got in their way. There were the five playoff defeats at the hands of Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, the famous double-nickel game when Jordan returned from his first retirement in 1995 and scored 55, along with many other instances in which Jordan got the best of New York.

    A compelling final chapter would have been added if the Wizards could have pulled this one out.

    "I didn't know how that would transpire,'' Jordan said. "Perfect endings happen if you play hard and do all the necessary things you need to do, but I wasn't trying to come up with something that would be a perfect ending.''

    Jordan was brilliant in the first half, scoring 26, and quiet for most of the second half until the game went down to the final minute.

    That's when the Knicks nearly had a complete collapse, with the NBA's leading free-throw shooter, Allan Houston, missing a pair from the line with 18.8 seconds left and Shandon Anderson making only one of two with 5.4 seconds remaining.

    That left Washington trailing 97-94, but the Knicks wouldn't let Jordan go for the tie. Sprewell fouled Jordan immediately after he received the inbounds pass, forcing him to shoot two from the line.

    Jordan made both with 4.2 seconds remaining, and the Knicks were able to run out the clock with some quick passing off the inbounds play.

    Jordan shot 13-for-22, with a dozen of his field goals coming from outside, and 13-for-15 from the line for 39 points. He got little help, however, as Larry Hughes and Juan Dixon scored 13 each and Jerry Stackhouse was held to five.

    The victory pulled New York within two games of ninth-place Washington in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Knicks are 3½ games behind eighth-place Milwaukee.

    "It's very disappointing when a 40-year-man has more desire than a 24-, 25-, or 23-year old, diving for loose balls, busting his chin and doing everything he can to get his team into the playoffs, and it's not reciprocated from the other players on the team,'' Jordan said. "Until guys let go of that macho, cool attitude and do the necessary things that it takes to play the game of basketball, it's going to be tough for Washington to make anything.''

    Houston scored 28, Sprewell 20 and Anderson 17 for the Knicks.

    Jordan re-entered the game with 10:29 left in the fourth quarter and Washington trailing by eight. Just 25 seconds and two jump shots later, Jordan had the crowd cheering for him and the deficit down to four.

    But Anderson scored the next five points to start a 13-2 run that put the Knicks ahead 95-80 with 5:19 left. They didn't score again until 30 seconds remained, and many in the crowd cheered for Washington during the comeback.

    "It was really bizarre, a strange feeling,'' Houston said. "You're fighting so hard for the playoffs and it's almost like you're on the road. But you know what? It's Michael.''

    Unlike the last time he played his "last game'' at the Garden, Jordan did not dig deep into his closet for a pair of original Air Jordans. Instead, he wore the updated gray version of his signature shoes and let his game, rather than his footwear, be the focus.

    After missing his first two shots, Jordan sank seven of his next eight -- all jumpers -- while the expression on his face turned from annoyed to animated. Jordan exchanged barbs with Anderson as the Knicks' small forward tried unsuccessfully to stop him.

    "I didn't want to try to do too much, just work my way into a rhythm,'' Jordan said. "That's kind of what happened until Shandon Anderson and I had a conversation about back in the Utah days and kind of kicked it up a notch, then we were in a battle.''

    It was Jordan's 43rd appearance at the arena where he scored 30 or more points 25 times. Barring a meeting of the teams in the playoffs, which is highly unlikely, it also was his last.

    Game notes


    The Knicks have won four straight at home. They haven't lost at home to an Eastern Conference opponent since Jan. 11. ... New York beat Washington for the first time this season after two defeats. The Wizards had won five straight against the Knicks.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

     
    WSH
    NY
    Points 96 97
    FGM-FGA 33-74 (.446) 32-74 (.432)
    3PM-3PA 1-8 (.125) 9-22 (.409)
    FTM-FTA 29-39 (.744) 24-32 (.750)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 14-43 13-41
    Assists 14 19
    Turnovers 12 17
    Steals 9 6
    Blocks 3 4
    Fast Break Points 5 1
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 23 (2/0) 28 (1/0)

    Top Performers

    Washington
    New York
    Michael Jordan Jordan
    Points: 39
    Reb: 8
    Ast: 1
    Stl: 1
    Blk: 0
    Allan Houston Houston
    Points: 28
    Reb: 2
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0