Jordan breaks loose for 41 points

Sunday, October 21, 2001

WASHINGTON -- Yes, Michael Jordan can still dunk. And he can still take over a game. And he can still score 40-plus.

Jordan, who finished with 41 points, dunked for the first time in his latest comeback Saturday night, just two of 16 points in an incredible third-quarter run in the Washington Wizards 102-95 loss to the New Jersey Nets.

In 33 minutes, Jordan shot 15-for-24 from the field and 9-for-11 from the line. He was truly the Jordan of old in a five-minute stretch in the third quarter, when he almost single-handedly closed an 18-point deficit to 2.

Jordan went 6-for-6, including two 3-pointers, and scored 16 of his team's 20 points during the run. He assisted on one of the other baskets with a no-look pass to Courtney Alexander.

The dunk was probably the least flashy play. Jordan caught the Nets' defense sleeping and blew past Donny Marshall and a screen for a simple one-handed jam. It was enough, however, to excite the sellout crowd at the Wizards' only home preseason game.

Other Jordan highlights included a classic, falling-down baseline jumper over rookie Richard Jefferson, who committed the foul for a three-point play. There were also back-to-back 3-pointers, the second one from well behind the arc that had Jordan strutting backward down the court.

But as well as Jordan played, he couldn't inspire his teammates to finish the job. The Wizards were trailing by two when he left the game with 5:36 to play in the third quarter, but the deficit was 17 when he returned one minute into the fourth.

Jordan scored 10 points in the final period and got the Wizards within two again, but didn't get a chance to take a game-winning shot. Tyronn Lue's layup made it 97-95 with 1:19 to play, but Derrick Dial answered at the other end for the Nets.

On the Wizards next possession, Lue badly missed a 3-pointer with plenty of the time on the shot clock, denying Jordan a final touch. Jordan was taken out of the game after Brandon Armstrong's 3-pointer then made it 100-97 with 36 seconds left.

Jordan gave no indication of a big night in a ragged first quarter. Matched against Jefferson, he was beat twice on backdoor plays in the first seven minutes. Jefferson, the No. 13 overall draft pick who has a Jordan poster on his wall at home, played his idol to a virtual standstill in the first quarter: Both scored six points in eight minutes, with Jefferson grabbing three rebounds to Jordan's one. Jordan made 2 of 5 shots, all jumpers.

Jordan returned four minutes into the second quarter seemingly determined to make amends. He ignored Kwame Brown, who was open and calling for the ball in the paint, and made a contested jump shot on the left wing.

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