DENVER, March 20 (Ticker) --
Just the presence of Michael Jordan
seemed to energize the Washington Wizards and leave the Denver Nuggets in awe.
Jordan's return from a knee injury sparked the Wizards, who got 30 points from Richard Hamilton
and cruised to a 107-75 victory over the woeful Nuggets, who have lost six straight games.
Jordan had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee on February 27 and missed 12 games. Without their leader and best player, the Wizards faltered, going 4-8 and dropping out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
"This is important. We need to make a run," Jordan said. "These guys have been playing well. If we come in now with the same intensity that these guys have been playing with in the last six games -- other than the (loss to the) Clippers -- we definitely can make a run."
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Rip Hamilton scored 12 of his game-high 30 points in a 38-point third quarter for Washington.
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The 39-year-old superstar practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and was activated from the injured list hours before the game.
He rode the stationary bike on the sidelines for the game's first nine minutes before entering to a huge ovation with 2:55 left in the first quarter.
"I told Doug (coach Doug Collins) I donít want to start," said Jordan, who came off the bench for the first time since April 5, 1986. "Itís not an ego thing. The guys that are out there are getting out there quick. I can come off the bench and give some good minutes and go against some of the other teams' second players. Plus, I can see whatís going on and go out there and do something."
"I thought he did well. I thought he was moving," Collins said. "I thought he missed three or four shots that he was going to make that were good looks for him. I think it was a good game for him It was so he could get out there, feel his way along without feeling the pressure of a real tight game. Michael isnít going to come back too early and set himself back because he wants to finish out the season."
Jordan missed his first shot but made a pair of baskets and scored five points in the remainder of the period, helping Washington open a 30-25 lead. He added just one more basket and finished with a rare single-digit total of seven points in 16 minutes, making just 2-of-9 shots.
For once, the Wizards didn't need him. They used big bursts at the beginning of the second and third quarters to run away from the Nuggets and improve to 3-2 on their seven-game road trip.
"His presence helped us out a great deal," Wizards guard Courtney Alexander
said. "Just knowing that heís back to help us, it helped out a great deal. I donít know if he intimidated the Nuggets, just obviously his presence helped out a great deal.ď "Heís good for that team in terms of lifting everybodyís game," Nuggets guard Calbert Cheaney
said. "He just brings out the best in everybody."
Jordan seemed to bring out the worst in the Nuggets. They shot just 33 percent (24-of-72), committed 20 turnovers and trailed by as many as 36 points as they matched a season high for consecutive losses.
"This was the worst game of the year for us," Denver coach Mike Evans said. "This time of year we are fatigued and we just didnít compete. (Antonio) McDyess
was good but nobody else stepped up. No one was intimidated by Michael, but he provided inspiration to his team."
Alexander scored 16 points and former Nuggets draft pick Tyronn Lue
added 14 and nine assists for Washington (32-36), which is tied with Miami for ninth in the East, 2 1/2 games behind Charlotte and Indiana for the final playoff berth.
McDyess scored all 16 of his points in the first half for the Nuggets, who have lost five straight home meetings with the Wizards. Denver did not make a 3-pointer for the third straight game.
Washington began the second quarter with a 16-6 surge, building a 46-31 lead on a dunk by teenage rookie Kwame Brown
with 6:41 left.
The Wizards led 54-39 at halftime and put away the game with a 21-2 burst at the outset of the third quarter. Hamilton scored 12 points before throwing a lob that Alexander hammered home for a 75-41 lead with 6:32 left. The Nuggets got no closer than 30 points thereafter.
"I really liked the way our team played with 32 assists, only (10) turnovers -- we moved the ball well," said Collins, whose team shot 45 percent (39-of-87) and made 24-of-25 free throws.
"Youíre going to have games like this, so thereís no sense in throwing chairs or anything like that," Evans said.