Basketball: Jordan skill has Nets in a tangle

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The Independent Online

Michael Jordan nearly broke his own NBA record for consecutive points scored on Monday with a run of 22. The streak was one short of the league record, set by Jordan when he scored 23 in a row for the Chicago Bulls against Atlanta in 1987.

Jordan, fresh from scoring 51 points in the Washington Wizards' win over Charlotte on Saturday, added a further 45 in the 98-76 victory over the New Jersey Nets. He made 16 out of 32 shots and 12 out of 13 free throws as Wizards beat the top side in the Eastern Conference.

His 22-point run took in the last 10 of the first half and the first 12 of the third quarter, single-handedly accounting for a 19-3 run as Washington went ahead 56-45. The Nets never got closer than nine points for the rest of the game.

The New Jersey forward Kenyon Martin made a big mistake when he mentioned his back spasms to Jordan. Upon hearing the news, Jordan went to work. "I don't think he wants to tell me that," Jordan said. "I just started attacking him from that point on."

The Washington coach, Doug Collins, said: "Michael's feeling better. I guess that's an understatement, huh?"

The Wizards have won 11 of their last 13 games and went 11-4 in wins and losses for the month, tying the franchise record for most wins in December. They went 2-13 last December, the worst in franchise history.

"My knees are feeling good," said the 38-year-old Jordan, who has been suffering from tendinitis all season. "I'm feeling a lot better. Once I get in a rhythm, I can get it going, so I think that'll keep all those old-player conversations down a little bit."

The Nets suffered their worst defeat of the season, had their three-game winning streak brought to an end and finished the month 9-5. They were fighting history against Jordan, having lost 23 consecutive games on Jordan's home court in a streak that is more than 16 years old.

"There's no doubt about it, he was good, but I don't think MJ is why we lost the game," the Nets coach, Byron Scott, said. "We got a royal butt-kicking on the boards."

Jordan toyed with every defender who guarded him, from Martin to Richard Jefferson to Van Horn, and even arched a running 16ft jump shot over the 7ft centre Todd MacCulloch. The last basket of his 22-point run was a spin move around Martin that left the defender flat-footed and the crowd gasping.

Jordan often dribbled between his legs, palmed the ball high above his defender and was not shy about driving to the basket. The only move that did not work was a high-step that led to an offensive foul for a push-off on Van Horn. A couple of minutes later Jordan got Van Horn into the air with a pump fake and got a three-point play, the start of the 22-point run. "He was amazing again," Collins said.

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