Wizards Sans Jordan Visit Fleet

Wizards Sans Jordan Visit Fleet

March 10, 2002

WALTHAM - Michael Jordan won't be coming through the FleetCenter door today, which undoubtedly will be a disappointment to some who snatched up tickets for this game last fall. MJ is on the IL, and this is Washington's last appearance in Boston this season. Now you see him, now you don't. Wait till next year. Maybe.

The Wizards are getting used to the idea of playing without Jordan; today's game (a 3 p.m. start, don't forget) will be their ninth this year without him and seventh in a row. Jordan underwent right knee surgery Feb. 27 and is not expected to return for a couple weeks. Washington is 2-4 since MJ's surgery and 2-6 overall without him.

   Thus, the Celtics catch a break of sorts in that they have back-to-back games against the plummeting Wizards (losers of 11 of 14 since the All-Star break) today and tomorrow night with no prospect of an MJ sighting. But, as you might expect, Celtics coach Jim O'Brien is looking only at what he'll see today and, frankly, he has the usual coach's concerns.

"They're shooting 47.2 percent over the last five games," he said after his team's brief workout yesterday at Healthpoint. "So, there's no difference in scoring without him. They could very easily be on a four-game winning streak. They won two and then they lost two close ones.

"They're playing with a great deal of passion. They're well-coached and they're hungry. They want to prove they can play and win without Jordan, and they are proving it."

This could be a small-lineup special. The Wizards are coming off a 99-96 loss to Orlando, and coach Doug Collins went small to counter the Orlando snipers. He could well do the same today, given the Celtics' recent fondness for a centerless lineup that features Antoine Walker and Rodney Rogers as the so-called big people.

That Celtics lineup got its first serious test last Monday in Philadelphia and won the game. What followed were offensive eruptions against Orlando (130 points) and Detroit (117 points) as the Celtics have shot the ball well, run at every opportunity, and passed with unselfishness.

O'Brien said he's seeing on offense now what he saw on defense earlier this year - specifically, that his players have decided it is time to become a good offensive team. He said he has seen a big improvement the last two weeks, which, of course, coincides with the trade that brought Rogers and Tony Delk from Phoenix.

Against the Magic, the Celtics not only scored 130 points, they also had 29 assists and shot 52.4 percent. Two nights later, they had 117 points, 26 assists, and shot 54.2 percent. Those two hot nights moved the Celtics from last in the league in field goal percentage to next-to-last at 42.2 percent. The Celtics are 7-0 when they shoot 50 percent or better (and 15-1 when they shoot 45 percent or better).

They're playing well and with confidence and are moving the ball as well as they have at any point this season. In other words, if it keeps up, it won't make any difference, MJ or no MJ.

. . .

Tony Battie (torn calf muscle) didn't participate in the walk-through yesterday, and O'Brien says he expects his center will miss his fourth straight game today and fifth tomorrow night. "Airplane rides are the last thing he needs," O'Brien said, "because of the swelling." However, O'Brien said Battie would not go on the injured list . . . Red Auerbach was at practice yesterday. He will watch today's game and then accompany the team to Washington . . . The Wizards were supposed to be in Boston early yesterday, but fog prevented their flight from landing in the morning. So they turned back, landed in Washington, practiced, and then flew back up in the afternoon . . . Pierce had his sore left wrist taped but said he wasn't worried. "I hurt it [in the Pistons game] but it's the same thing I've had all year," he said. "It's no better, no worse." He said he wouldn't tape the wrist for games . . . The Wizards lead the league in 3-point shooting accuracy but take only 10 per game, making slightly fewer than four. The Celtics lead the league in 3-point attempts at more than 23 per game but are 12th in percentage.

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