GREENVILLE, S.C., Oct. 23 (AP) -- Michael Jordan
was around for the fourth quarter and the Washington Wizards won an exhibition game.
"It was a great finish tonight," said Jordan, who had 27 points and hit two clinching baskets in the final three minutes as the Wizards defeated New Jersey 105-92 at the Bi-Lo Center on Tuesday night. "We've been in situations where I didn't play in the fourth quarter and the team didn't maintain the success we had up to that point.
Michael Jordan catches Kenyon Martin leaning the wrong direction.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE Photos
"Seeing that I'm a veteran leader, in the fourth quarter, I like to create some threats, get other guys open and, if possible, finish the job myself."
That he did.
Keith Van Horn's 3-pointer cut the Wizards' lead to 94-90, then Jordan hit a jumper from the left side with 2:43 left. After New Jersey's Jason Kidd missed a 3-pointer, Jordan again freed himself for a basket as Washington (2-4) won for the first time in four
As if to announce he was back to the capacity crowd of 14,313, Jordan went one-on-one with Kidd and hit a closing jumper to loud cheers and a flurry of flash bulbs.
It was Jordan's longest outing of the preseason at 36 minutes, and maybe his most complete game. He was 10-of-23 from the field with 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals. He also had six turnovers.
"He knows he did not play well in the third quarter. He wanted to play well in the fourth quarter," Collins said. "That's who he is."
Van Horn led the Nets (3-3) with 22 points and Todd MacCulloch had 21. Kidd was only 3-of-13 from the field and had seven points.
But this game, as every one of Washington's this preseason has been, was all about Jordan, who's returning to the NBA after a three-year layoff.
The last time Jordan played in Greenville seven years ago, he wore a uniform with longer pants and carried a 13-game hitting streak for the Birmingham Barons. Fans packed Greenville Stadium that time too, but Jordan was held hitless by future major leaguer Jason Schmidt.
Jordan looked much more comfortable inside the Bi-Lo Center. He brought the capacity crowd to its feet with a one-handed slam in
the first quarter, then scored eight straight points in the second to put Washington ahead 43-36.
On his final basket in that run, Jordan strode in from the right side, took a sweet pass from Tyronn Lue and glided in for high-rising layup.
"I feel good," Jordan said after his fourth game in six days. "I got into a rush mode, but my legs felt good. I'm not where I want to be yet."
Collins says his team struggles to find an identity without Jordan in the game. That didn't happen in this one as the Wizards increased their lead slightly over the first six minutes of the second quarter with Jordan resting.
Popeye Jones had six points and Richard Hamilton added four in the span and the Wizards were ahead 33-30 when Jordan returned.
Jordan shook off his 2-of-7 opening quarter to take control. He hit a fadeaway, was fouled twice and made all four free throws and
finished things with the layup from Lue.
Collins hopes his young club can get the rhythm that Jordan plays.
"It's almost like a jazz musician the way he does his job," Collins said.
Jordan was bit off key in the third quarter, though. He missed two 3-pointers, was called for an offensive foul and twice lost the
ball out of bounds on dribbles.
But the Nets, who saw Jordan tie an NBA preseason record with 41
points Saturday night, knew how dangerous he could be.
Jordan looked at Martin and laughed.
"You can tell he still has the ability to take over a game,"
Nets coach Byron Scott said of Jordan. "He's not jumping over
people and floating to the rim like he used to, but he's using his
smarts and experience more than anything."