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Williams gets hot from outside while Wizards go cold

DENVER (AP) -- Shammond Williams would rather pass to his
teammates. But once he started hitting long-range baskets, he just
kept shooting.

Williams scored eight consecutive Denver points early in the fourth
quarter, helping produce a 13-point lead, and the Nuggets beat the
Washington Wizards 88-72 Sunday night.

Williams had 15 points to pace six Nuggets in double figures,
spoiling Michael Jordan's final appearance in Denver, where he once
shot a free throw with his eyes closed.

Jordan, who plans to retire after this season, finished with 19
points for Washington, which shot only 35 percent.

The defeat damaged the Wizards' playoff hopes, dropping them a
half-game game behind Milwaukee in the race for the eighth and
final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Nuggets are only 17-57, but have won three of their past
five.

''We've been playing some darn good basketball as of late,''
Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said. ''This is a tribute to our
players, who haven't quit. They come to work every day. They've
done what we've asked them to do -- play with great enthusiasm and
great effort. It's good to see some of the results.''

Denver outscored Washington 28-13 in the third quarter to erase
a 44-36 halftime deficit and take a 64-57 lead. Denver started the
period with an 11-2 run, including three inside baskets by Nene
Hilario, to take the lead for the first time, 47-46.

Jeff Trepagnier had seven points in the quarter for Denver.

With Denver leading 66-59 early in the final period, Williams
hit a 3-pointer, followed by a 20-foot jumper and another
3-pointer, the last coming with 7:57 left, for a 74-61 lead.

Williams was 5-for-7 from the floor, including 4-for-5 from
3-point range.

''I just started to stick my shots,'' he said. ''I'm happier
creating shots for others, getting my teammates involved in the
game. I pulled up and got some shots. Once I knocked down a few, I
just kept shooting.''

Rodney White followed with four consecutive Denver baskets as the
Nuggets pushed their lead to 20.

Washington, concluding a six-game, 10-day road trip, shot just
19 percent (7-for-36) in the second half.

''We just hit the wall,'' Wizards coach Doug Collins said. ''We
had no energy at all from about the midpoint of the second quarter.
We were on dead legs, and we were playing a young, aggressive team
that just pushed right over the top of us from that point on.''

Collins noted his team has nine games left. ''And we will have
to win at least seven of them, so there's no room for error for us
now,'' he said.

Jordan, who was 9-for-23, said his team ''got out of the blocks
quick, but we just wilted the rest of the way. Jerry (Stackhouse)
missed two layups, one on a breakaway, and I missed so many easy
shots. That says it all.''

Hilario finished with 13 points, and White and Donnell Harvey
each had 11.

Stackhouse added 15 points for Washington, which shot 63 percent
in the first quarter compared with Denver's 32 percent to take a
25-16 lead. Stackhouse had nine points and Jordan added eight, on
4-for-4 shooting.

The Wizards hit six of their first seven shots, and Stackhouse's
layup pushed the lead to 14-4. After Denver cut the lead to five,
Stackhouse's steal and dunk made it 22-11.

Jordan committed three consecutive turnovers, though, helping
Denver cut the lead to 22-16 late in the period.

Jordan shot just 2-for-10 in the second quarter, but the Nuggets
could get no closer than seven points, on Harvey's two free throws
with 6:19 left.

In 1991, Jordan, then playing for Chicago, attempted and made a
free throw with his eyes closed at Denver's McNichols Arena,
telling Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo, ''This one's for you.''

Game notes
Before the game, the Nuggets and Rocky Mountain Harley
Davidson presented Jordan with a 2003 VRSCA V-ROD motorcycle. ...
The Nuggets played a video of Jordan highlights before the game and
during timeouts, and fans gave him a standing ovation during
pregame introductions, and when he left the game with 3:19 to go.
... Washington's Charles Oakley (swollen right knee) and Larry
Hughes (sprained right knee) did not dress. ... Howard returned
after missing the game Saturday night in Houston with the flu. ... It
was only the second sellout of the season for the Nuggets, who also
sold out a game against the Lakers on Dec. 28. The crowd of 19,650
was a record for the Nuggets at the 4-year-old Pepsi Center.

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