Jordan scored 27 points, handed out eight assists and engaged in some friendly trash talk with Cleveland’s Ricky Davis as the Washington Wizards handed the Cavaliers a seventh straight road defeat, 93-84.
“He played great for them tonight,” Cavs All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas said. “He had some key buckets for them down the stretch. We had to double him because he had a lot of shots in the beginning, and other people were just standing there open. He can just pass it to them, and it’s an open jump shot.”
Washington’s lead was just 77-76 after rookie Dajuan Wagner nailed a baseline floater with 6:49 to play. But Lue countered with a 3-pointer and Jordan a fadeaway jump shot to give the Wizards a six-point lead with 5:20 to play, and the Cavs got no closer than three points thereafter.
“It was a big shot,” Lue said of his 3-pointer, which came after Jordan drew the defense down under the basket and dished to Lue at the top of the key. “Coach just told me to stay aggressive and they kicked it out to me, and I was able to knock down a big shot. I’m comfortable taking those shots now because the coaching staff lets me be aggressive and more assertive, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
“I was able to move the ball a lot easier in the fourth quarter,” Jordan said. “Tyronn Lue was one of the recipients, Bryon Russell had some baskets and Kwame also. When we got in situations where I can be a focus or a threat, it is up to me to get these guys involved with the ball, and I was able to do that tonight.”
Davis, the Cavs’ leading scorer at 21.9 points per game, was limited to seven on 3-of-14 shooting by Russell. With his team trailing, 86-79, Davis shot an airball with 3:25 to play. After Jordan grabbed the rebound, dribbled into the frontcourt and called timeout, he appeared to say something to Davis, point to the scoreboard and laugh.
“You just have to stay focused,” Davis said. “If we had stopped a couple of MJ’s key shots earlier in the game, I think we would have had a really good shot at a win. I’m taking it upon myself to come back after the (All-Star) break and get it back going again.”
Wagner scored 19 points and Ilgauskas added 18 and 11 rebounds for Cleveland, which fell to 3-24 on the road.
“We made too many mistakes in the crucial part of the game,” Ilgauskas said. “We had 21 turnovers, so you’re not going to win on the road when you have so many turnovers.”
Cleveland committed 22 turnovers, which Washington converted into 31 points. The Cavs scored just 14 points off 13 Wizards giveaways.
The Cavs are just 1-6 under interim coach Keith Smart.
“As bad as this situation is, it’s a great experience of learning because they’re getting a chance to play in close ballgames and trying to make plays,” Smart said of his team. “A year from now or two years from now, these guys will have grown out of that position. So they have to go through this incredible pain to get a chance to get in position in two or three years from now where we can close out basketball games.”
The Wizards jumped out to an 11-4 lead and took a 31-29 edge after 12 minutes. Washington extended its edge to 52-45 at the break and led by 70-66 entering the fourth quarter.
“We thought we were about to knock them out of the game, but they played hard and fought through it and they were able to withstand our runs,” Haywood said.
“I am certainly glad the game is behind us and we got a win,” Wizards coach Doug Collins said. “I was very concerned about this Cleveland team. I watched them on tape over the last four games, and they played some very good basketball.”
“This is one of the toughest games, when you know you have seven days off after that with the All-Star break,” Jordan said. “But we gutted it out.”