Final

Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 3)

Series starts 12/3

Game 1: Tuesday, December 3rd
Bucks78Final
Wizards103
Game 2: Thursday, January 30th
Wizards90Final
Bucks97
Game 3: Friday, March 7th
Bucks85Final
Wizards82

Bucks 85

(31-31, 14-17 away)

Wizards 82

(30-32, 21-13 home)

    7:00 PM ET, March 7, 2003

    Verizon Center, Washington, DC

    1 2 3 4 T
    MIL 24 22 19 2085
    WSH 22 18 19 2382

    Top Performers

    Milwaukee: S. Cassell 24 Pts, 3 Reb, 5 Ast, 2 Stl

    Washington: M. Jordan 27 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl

    Milwaukee owns tiebreaker edge over Washington

    WASHINGTON (AP) -- If Michael Jordan doesn't make the playoffs one last time, he can blame the big-game jitters his teammates felt Friday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.

     Michael Jordan
    Jordan

    In a season tiebreaker between two teams jostling for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot, the Bucks were more aggressive and confident and never trailed in an 85-82 victory.

    "Things are getting short," Jordan said. "We've got one night to study before the test comes, and next thing you know, you've got to take that test. We have not responded well.

    "For me, that's frustrating because I think I have a lot more desire to finish stronger than some of these other guys -- because this is the last time I'll be playing. For them, it's easier to say 'Wait 'til next year.'"

    Sam Cassell scored 24 points, and Gary Payton had 18 as both shredded Washington's interior defense by taking the ball straight to the hoop. The Bucks, despite a height disadvantage, outscored the Wizards 36-20 in the paint.

    The victory was a crucial one. The teams entered their last meeting of the season tied for eighth in the conference and 1-1 in head-to-head meetings. If they finish tied for eighth at the end of the regular season, Milwaukee will go to the playoffs.

    "We came in here knowing we needed a win," Payton said. "We played some defense tonight, so that's a big part of it."

    The Bucks hit a dry spell late in the game, and the Wizards nearly overcame a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Jordan, recovering from a sore leg and back spasms, missed a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.

    Jordan had 27 points and nine rebounds and alternated long quiet stretches with spurts of energy. During a critical stretch in the fourth quarter when the Bucks' offense went silent for a couple of minutes, Jordan missed two jumpers and was tied up by Ervin Johnson for a jump ball.

    But the Wizards felt it should never have to come to that. Coach Doug Collins used the words "nervous" and ``anxious'' to try to explain the loss and said he downplayed the game because his players don't handle big-game pressure well.

    "I think they were trying too hard sometimes," Collins said.

    Washington's final possession was thrown out of whack when Desmond Mason nearly stole the ball from Jerry Stackhouse. Larry Hughes had a chance to take a 3-pointer, but he didn't feel comfortable and passed the ball to Jordan, who was well guarded by Payton and came up short.

    "I'm pretty sure this will come back to haunt us," said Christian Laettner, who scored 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting.

    Neither team was able to put together more than a few minutes of consistent play. The Wizards tried to take advantage of their height by pounding the ball inside to Laettner, while Payton and Cassell used their quickness to beat Washington's defense with fast breaks and driving layups.

    The Bucks took the first substantial lead, building a 10-point advantage in the second quarter, before Jordan made three jumpers and tied the score. Milwaukee ended the half on an 8-2 run with three baskets by Cassell: two layups and a flying one-handed dunk that resembled the profile on a pair of Air Jordans.

    The Bucks got the cushion back to nine several times in the third quarter, and Payton's running layup put Milwaukee up 65-59 going into the fourth.

    The Wizards pulled within one in the fourth, but couldn't take the lead. Hughes missed a 3-pointer that would have put Washington ahead with 2:02 remaining, and Mason immediately answered with his first 3-pointer since he was traded to the Bucks on Feb. 20 _ and Milwaukee's first basket in more than five minutes -- to put his team ahead by five.

    Kwame Brown put in the rebound off Jordan's missed shot with 56 seconds left to cut Milwaukee's lead to 83-80. Jordan was fouled on a drive and made both free throws with 20 seconds to go to cut the lead to one, but Cassell made two free throws with 19 seconds remaining for the game's final points.

    "It was a great win,'' Milwaukee coach George Karl said. "It puts us in a position of optimism. If we continue to hopefully build and get better, we can continue to be hopeful."

    Game notes
    Mason is 17-for-59 from 3-point range this season, and 1-for-3 with the Bucks. ... The Bucks haven't lost a season series with Washington since the 1997-98 season. ... At halftime, Milwaukee had big advantages in points in the paint (24-4), second-chance points (7-0) and fast-break points (11-2).

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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    Team Stat Comparison

     
    MIL
    WSH
    Points 85 82
    FGM-FGA 35-81 (.432) 29-71 (.408)
    3PM-3PA 3-15 (.200) 3-8 (.375)
    FTM-FTA 12-17 (.706) 21-27 (.778)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 7-41 7-41
    Assists 20 23
    Turnovers 13 16
    Steals 8 8
    Blocks 3 5
    Fast Break Points 6 3
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 21 (3/0) 17 (2/0)

    Top Performers

    Milwaukee
    Washington
    Sam Cassell Cassell
    Points: 24
    Reb: 3
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0
    Michael Jordan Jordan
    Points: 27
    Reb: 9
    Ast: 3
    Stl: 2
    Blk: 0