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Jordan’s 44-Point Effort Picture-Perfect for Bulls

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Michael Jordan gave the crowd at the United Center in Chicago plenty of photo opportunities Saturday night in what could have been his last regular-season game.

He spent much of the night in a familiar pose--at the free-throw line.

“I got fouled. I guess that is when you go to the free throw line,” Jordan said after scoring 44 points to lead the Chicago Bulls past the New York Knicks, 111-109.

With flashbulbs popping all over the building, Jordan moved toward his 10th NBA scoring title, going 22 for 24 from the free-throw line.

“I didn’t know what I had to score. If I worry about that, I can’t play my game. I just have to let it come to me and sooner or later it will fall into place,” Jordan said.

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Jordan finished with a 28.7 average. Shaquille O’Neal is averaging 28.2 points headed into the Lakers’ regular-season finale against Utah at the Forum and needs 59 points to overtake Jordan.

Jordan, again asked about retirement, said, “It may well be the last dance.”

Bull Coach Phil Jackson, who is not expected back, said his team used the game as a way of bidding farewell because “during the playoffs there is no time to look around or behind or be maudlin.”

“This was our night to say goodbye to the team that put together three great regular seasons,” Jackson said.

The Bulls finished 62-20 after winning 72 and 69 regular-season games the previous two seasons.

Washington 112, Boston 95--With four must-wins, the resilient Wizards have done all they can to pull off an amazing comeback from the playoff abyss, finishing the regular season by beating the Celtics at Washington.

Chris Webber had 27 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Wizards.

Now they need a little more help.

One week ago, the Wizards were four games out of the final playoff spot with four to play. They’ve since beaten the Knicks, Cavaliers, Heat and Celtics, while the eighth-place New Jersey Nets have dropped three in a row.

The Wizards (42-20) make the playoffs if the Nets lose to Detroit and Orlando falls to Charlotte today.

Minnesota 111, Milwaukee 109--Tom Hammonds made the game-winning shot for the playoff-bound Timberwolves as the buzzer sounded at Milwaukee.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Hammonds said after finishing with 17 points.

Hammonds’ 18-footer spoiled Ray Allen’s career-high 40 points for Milwaukee, which is headed for its seventh consecutive trip to the NBA draft lottery.

Allen was 15 of 27 from the field, including six of 10 from three-point range.

Cleveland 96, Indiana 92--Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 26 points and Shawn Kemp had 18 points and 15 rebounds as the Cavaliers beat the Pacers at Cleveland in a preview of their first-round playoff series.

Jalen Rose had 26 points and Travis Best added 21 for Indiana, which had its seven-game winning streak ended but still finished the regular season with the best winning percentage in franchise history and most wins (58) since joining the NBA.

Cleveland, returning to the playoffs after missing them last year for the first time under Coach Mike Fratello, finished 47-35--five wins better than last year.

Golden State 112, Vancouver 100--Erick Dampier had a career-high 23 points and Tony Delk also scored 23 at Oakland as Golden State completed its dismal season.

The Warriors finished 19-63, matching the 52-year-old franchise’s mark for losses in a season, in a year that included Latrell Sprewell’s attack on Coach P.J. Carlesimo and three losing streaks of eight games or longer.


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