INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Michael Jordan’s 40-year-old knees don’t feel so creaky when the Wizards are playing well. At this rate, he may be 100 percent by the end of the season.
“In the last three games (2-1) we’ve been playing some sound basketball,” said Jordan, likely playing his last game in Indianapolis. “Hopefully we can keep building on this with the way we’ve been playing. We know we’re stacked against the odds in terms of what we have to do.”
The Pacers turned a 10-point third quarter deficit into a one-point lead with 2:51 left when Reggie Miller, who led them with 25, hit a 3-pointer.
Then the Wizards took advantage of Indiana’s offensive ineptitude. They scored six straight points and the Pacers missed four straight shots as Washington took a 79-74 lead.
Washington won for the first time at Conseco Fieldhouse (1-8) and snapped a 12-game road losing streak to the Pacers.
“The focus is there right now,” Jordan said. “I just like the way they’re competing.”
The same can’t be said of Indiana. The Pacers have lost five straight games—their longest skid of the season—and eight of 12.
“We’re just not making the plays we normally make,” O’Neal said. “We’re not getting the stops we normally make. It’s not one side of the court. It’s both sides.”
Jordan, who has scored over 20 points in four of the last five games, was Washington’s only offensive threat in the first half, scoring 16 points on 8-for-14 shooting.
With flashbulbs popping on seemingly every shot, Jordan hit one jumper after another, over either an overmatched Al Harrington or an injured Ron Artest. He helped the Wizards to a 38-36 lead at the half.
“I didn’t see the flashbulbs,” Jordan said. “I never do. I’m focusing on the shot.”
Late in the fourth, Jordan was kneed in the quad after he collided with Miller. Jordan said it was sore, but didn’t expect to miss any time.
Jordan came out feeling better than Artest, who said Monday he wasn’t going to play with a sore right elbow. He was talked into starting, but it limited him offensively—he was 3-for-17 from the floor.
“It’s a big factor,” Artest said. “The good thing about it is, I’m getting better. It’s going to take a little bit of rest. I should have rested tonight. I shouldn’t have played.”
When Jordan’s shots stopped falling in the third, the Wizards turned to Lue, a 6-foot guard with a 7.7 scoring average. Lue drilled three 3-pointers in the quarter and accounted for nine straight Washington points to push the lead at 60-52.
“When they didn’t have anything, they found me and I was fortunate to hit some 3s,” said Lue. “We just wanted to attack and use my speed and quickness to come off the pick and roll.”
Lue, who had his first double-double of the year, also took care of the ball, not committing a turnover. The Wizards only had three turnovers the game, compared to Indiana’s 13. The three turnovers tied the NBA record for fewest in a game.
The Pacers made a run in the fourth quarter when O’Neal started to show some life. He broke his nose last week and started the game wearing a protective mask. It was quickly discarded, but he appeared tentative around the basket and spent the early part of the game shooting jumpers without much success.
O’Neal though, scored eight points early in the fourth, and his 16-footer tied the score at 69. He finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds.
Baskets by Stackhouse and Haywood made it 73-71 before Miller’s 3 put the Pacers ahead for the last time.
Indiana starting PG Jamaal Tinsley did not play because of an illness in his family. … Indiana C Brad Miller had 10 points and 11 rebounds… Washington coach Doug Collins said he expects to place F/C Etan Thomas on the injured list with a bruised left eye socket. Collins said Thomas is experiencing double vision and could miss the rest of the season if surgery is needed. Jahidi White would be activated. … The Pacers activated G Jamison Brewer from the injured list. Jonathan Bender was added to the list with a sore left calf. … Jordan received a pregame video tribute and a standing ovation. His first All-Star game and his first comeback game in 1995 were inIndianapolis.