Washington 99; Boston 98 (OT)

BOSTON, April 6 (UPI) -- Christian Laettner hit the game-winning basket with 53 seconds left in overtime Sunday as Washington posted a pivotal 99-98 win over the Boston Celtics.

"Coach called the play and it seemed like they weren't ready for it," said Laettner, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds.


"It was a designed play for Christian, with Michael drawing the defense," said Washigton Coach Doug Collins. "When Christian doesn't hesitate, he's got the best shot on the team."

Michael Jordan, relishing his final matchup with Paul Pierce, hit a game-tying, 14-foot jumper in the lane with 44 seconds left in regulation to create the extra session.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Wizards (35-41), who pulled within two games of the Milwaukee Bucks (38-40) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"Winning in Boston's good," Jordan said. "I mean, I always liked this place. It's not the (Boston) Garden, but it's the next best thing. The respect that I got in here in Boston over the years has always been positive."


"Michael played a happy game today," said Wizards Coach Doug Collins. "I think just being in Boston makes him happy, and he loves to play against Antoine (Walker) and Paul (Pierce). It was fun to watch him have fun."

The Celtics (41-36) had a chance to officially clinch a postseason berth, but instead slipped one game behind New Orleans (42-35) for the fifth playoff spot.

Most of the sellout crowd Sunday paid homage to Jordan, who has said he earned his "legitimacy" at Boston Garden during the 1986 playoffs.

Then, as a 23-year-old with the Chicago Bulls, he set a playoff record with 63 points on the parquet in a Game Two loss.

Afterwards, Celtics superstar Larry Bird anointed Jordan as the best player in the league with the famous quotation, "That was God disguised as Michael Jordan."

Now at 40 and in his last season, Jordan graced the FleetCenter crowd with a 25-point, 13-rebound performance. He did not soar for any high-flying dunks as he did in his prime, but played 47 minutes and was good enough to lead his team to a pivotal victory.

Pierce led the Celtics with 36 points, but committed a key turnover after Laettner's basket from the left corner gave the Wizards a 99-98 lead.


The Celtics had other chances to win, but Antoine Walker, who hit just 3-of-16 shots, missed a three-pointer with 11 seconds left, and Eric Williams missed a jumper from the top of the key with two seconds remaining.

"We really had two good looks," said Boston Coach Jim O'Brien. "Unfortunately, they didn't fall for us. "I thought we passed the basketball well, but didn't make enough shots."

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