WASHINGTON -- The Los Angeles Clippers got Jordaned Tuesday night. In the old days that would mean they got sliced up and humiliated. These days it simply means they lost to a player and a team that out-thought them and out-worked them, to a player and a team that won with whatever limited means they had at their disposal.
The Washington Wizards' 96-88 victory represented the evolution of Michael Jordan. And it should be the ultimate destination for the Clippers.
While the Clippers produced the highlights, with soaring alley-oop dunks by Corey Maggette and Darius Miles, Jordan and the Wizards stuck to the basics -- the stuff coaches talk about -- like dictating tempo and executing the offense.
"We found a way to win the game tonight," Jordan said. "It wasn't a pretty win."
The only fans who left the MCI Center with some memorable Jordan moments tucked away were the lucky ones who won the "Ultimate Jordan" DVD in a promotion. Very little he does these days makes you pick up the cellie and call your friends.
Even his 51-point game against the Charlotte Hornets wasn't jaw-dropping. Just a bunch of jumpers.
Tuesday's effort was inspiring only if the Clippers were paying close attention. He missed 15 of his 24 shots and missed his only free throw (off a technical foul) and finished with 18 points. But he had 10 rebounds and kept finding his teammates for open shots, and was only two assists shy of a triple double. He keeps finding ways to win.
Meanwhile, Lamar Odom hit his first two shots-over Jordan -- then missed his next four and checked out of the game for good late in the second quarter -- because of stomach flu. For a player that Coach Alvin Gentry described as being as valuable to the Clippers as Jordan is to the Wizards, it was not a very Jordanesque performance. As we all remember, Jordan put together one of his most memorable games while battling flu-like symptoms in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals. He scored 29 points against the Chicago Bulls on Friday despite a sinus infection.
Tuesday, he played in his first game since the news broke that his wife, Juanita, has filed for a divorce.
"Obviously, when you have personal issues, it can drain you," Jordan said. "Sometimes work is an avenue to deal with it and move on. That's basically where I am right now. I come out and do my job and focus on what's been enjoyable for me, which is playing basketball, and things will work out for me in the long run."
When asked about the divorce after the game, Jordan said: "I don't think I want to talk about my personal life. That's something that privately we will work on.
"I don't think I want to sit here and go through that. We have kids, obviously, and we want to make sure that that's the focus."
For the time being, the once-lowly Wizards are Jordan's immediate family. After a 3-10 start they have won 15 of 19 and look more like legitimate playoff contenders every day. They have a winning record on the road, something the Clippers can only dream about.
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