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Motivated Wizards take it out on Magic

Tracy McGrady scored 43 in what was probably his final game against Michael Jordan.

The victory, however, went to Jordan, whose criticism of teammates seemed to motivate them.

After losing three of four by a combined seven points, the suddenly serious Wizards got 31 points from Jerry Stackhouse, 23 from Jordan and double figures from all five starters in Tuesday night's 106-105 victory over the Magic.

Jordan ripped young teammates for not matching his 40-year-old desire and effort after losses Friday and Sunday that put the Wizards in deep trouble in the playoff chase in Jordan's final season.

"Someone needed to say it, and I said it," Jordan said. "Today the effort was a lot better, and the end result shows that."

Jordan said he did not regret making his criticisms public.

"The truth hurts. It would be just the opposite for us to sugarcoat it," Jordan said. "We play publicly."

Stackhouse also had complained about his role in the offense, and owner Abe Pollin stepped in and addressed the team Tuesday morning. All that turmoil set the stage for a thrilling Jordan-McGrady finale.

"We felt coming in tonight like we were coming into the lion's den," Orlando coach Doc Rivers. "We knew they were angry."

Said Stackhouse: "The motive was to try to inspire the play, and the motive worked. Everybody came out and played inspired."

Jordan matched his career high with nine turnovers, but he made 10 of 18 shots, including a driving layup for Washington's final field goal to put the Wizards up by three with 25 seconds remaining.

But no one could touch McGrady, who made 16 of 26 shots and seemed to score at will. McGrady did his best to catch up in the waning moments, making two long 3-pointers in the final six seconds. But Stackhouse's 6-for-6 free-throw shooting in the final minute kept the Wizards lead safe.

HEAT 77, CAVALIERS 75: Mike James made two free throws with 0.4 seconds left and visiting Miami snapped a four-game losing streak despite scoring 10 in the fourth quarter. James hit his free throws after being fouled by Cavs guard Ricky Davis, who got faked into the air and fouled James as the Heat guard was attempting a 3-pointer. James intentionally missed his third attempt, and the final horn sounded before the Cavs could get off a shot. Cleveland lost its seventh straight and 13th in 14 games.

PISTONS: Forward Clifford Robinson signed a contract extension through the 2004-05 season. The guaranteed $9-million deal includes a team option for a third year worth about $5-million, the Associated Press reported.

76ERS: Allen Iverson and Larry Brown were fined $7,500 each by the league for criticizing referee Derrick Stafford after a loss to the Lakers on Sunday.

AGE-LIMIT RUMORS: The director of the players union vehemently denied having any kind of a handshake agreement with the league to set an age limit of 20 in the next collective bargaining agreement. "There have been no deals struck between David (Stern) and myself, and there has been no discussion of an age limit between David and myself," union director Billy Hunter said. Hunter was compelled to address the belief an age limit could be in place for the 2004 draft because the misconception could lead to a large number of high school players and 17- and 18-year-old foreigners making themselves eligible for the this year's draft.