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MJ scores 20 in first game since turning 40

2/20/2003

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- The New Orleans Hornets wanted redemption
after a late-game collapse Tuesday night in Orlando, and Jamal
Mashburn decided he should provide it.

Mashburn wrapped up a 24-point performance by hitting a
3-pointer and a pair of aggressive runners in the lane as the
Hornets scored on eight of nine possession down the stretch for an
87-75 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

"At the end of the game I really want to take the shots ... it
was pretty important and it pretty much sealed the game at that
point,'' Mashburn said. "They've got the best player in the world
(Michael Jordan) and he can still re-create some old highlights, so
they can come back and you don't want that to happen, especially
not two nights in a row.''

Michael Jordan scored 20 to lead Washington, but shot only
8-of-23 in his first game since turning 40. Jerry Stackhouse,
returning from a strained left groin that kept him out five games,
added 15 for the Wizards.

"We missed a lot of easy shots; I know I missed a lot of easy
shots,'' Jordan said. "We had our chances, but unless you get it
done it doesn't matter.''

After blowing a 12-point lead in the final 5 minutes against the
Magic a night earlier, New Orleans needed the victory both for
morale and to get some separation in the standings between
themselves (29-27) and Washington (25-28), which currently holds
the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

David Wesley added 21 and George Lynch, who guarded Jordan,
scored a season-high 12. P.J. Brown had 13 rebounds, including two
late in the fourth quarter on either end of the floor, and the
Hornets finished with a 51-35 rebounding advantage.

Lynch said he felt more fortunate than triumphant about Jordan
missing most of his shots.

"He's a great scorer and if it wasn't for age he probably would
have had his 50 tonight,'' Lynch said. "It's just one of those
situations where you have to go out and stay close to him and make
him work, and if he makes them, he makes them, but if not, you
hopefully get your rebounds and that's what we did tonight.''

After falling behind by as many as 15 points in the first
quarter, Washington regrouped and pulled to 73-71 in the fourth
quarter when Kwame Brown, who had 13 points, muscled in an inside
shot.

But Jamaal Magloire, who had 13 points and 14 rebounds, followed
with a short jumper and Mashburn hit another jump shot as New
Orleans, which outshot Washington 45 percent to 38 percent, began
to pull away.

"We just have not been able to get defensive stops when we
needed them all year long. That's been the story of our season,''
Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "But you can't shoot 38 percent,
miss (eight) free throws and get outrebounded by 16 and expect to
beat New Orleans on its home court in a game they have to win after
the game they had last night.''

New Orleans opened up an early 22-7 lead as the Wizards started
3-for-18 shooting.

With largely reserve lineups on the floor for both teams to
start the second quarter, Washington stormed back as the Hornets
went into 2-for-14 shooting slump. Stackhouse drove in for a
soaring one-handed dunk, then Brown got open underneath for a jam
on Washington's next possession, closing the score to 28-24.

Jordan later tied the game at 38 on a jumper. Shortly after, he
rolled off a hard pick on Wesley and received the ball under the
basket for a reverse layin. But Wesley hit a pair of foul shots
with 2 seconds left in the half, then Lynch intercepted the ensuing
inbound pass and hit a 3 to give New Orleans a 46-40 halftime
lead.

Game notes
The standing-room-only crowd of 18,522 (seating is 17,200)
was the largest of the season in New Orleans Arena and marked the
seventh sellout for the Hornets in their first 29 regular-season
home games. One of the other six also was a Wizards game, with
Jordan the obvious draw. ... The New Orleans crowd was nonpartisan
regarding Jordan, who was making his second appearance here as a
pro. Cheers erupted briefly when Jordan was introduced as a starter
and each time he scored throughout the game. When the public
address announcer reminded fans they were likely seeing Jordan for
the last time, they stood and applauded for about a minute. ...
Hornets reserve forward Kirk Haston left the game in the second half with a broken nose.