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 46-40halftime lead.
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 thegame in the second half with a broken nose.