EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Michael Jordan's final appearance in New Jersey may have been his worst.
Jordan was limited to just eight points as the Washington Wizards collapsed in the second half of an 86-78 loss to the New Jersey Nets, who got 24 points from Richard Jefferson and a career-high 21 rebounds from Kenyon Martin.
Jordan, who turns 40 on February 17, came in averaging 29.9 points in 28 career appearances at New Jersey. Most of his damage was done as a member of the Chicago Bulls, including a 42-point game here in 1988.
But since returning with the Wizards last season, he has experienced difficulties in this building, averaging just 10 points in three games while shooting a woeful 26 percent (13-of-50).
In this one, the Wizards were able to control most of the first three quarters in spite of Jordan, who was chosen for his 15th All-Star Game on Tuesday. They held a 51-43 lead following Brendan Haywood's layup with 9:23 left, but the Nets closed the quarter with a 12-2 run that gave them a 65-59 lead heading into the final period.
Most of Jordan's problems against the Nets have been due to Jefferson's tight defense, which prevented him from using his athleticism to penetrate for easy baskets. Jefferson held him to 5-of-20 from the field in the first meeting, a 79-65 win by the Nets on December 13.
In this one, Jordan was a woeful 4-of-16 from the floor. But when he departed with eight seconds left, the sellout crowd at Continental Airlines Arena gave him a standing ovation.
"I've always enjoyed playing here," Jordan said. "They have some good fans. I just couldn't get in any rhythm tonight. I got in early foul trouble. But the applause was appreciated."
Following the game, Jordan cited his young team's inability to stay with elite teams for all 48 minutes and had high praise for Martin.
"Kenyon Martin came out in the second half and he was a man against boys," Jordan said. "They started beating us up inside and eating us up on the boards. We tried to retaliate with jump shots. That isn't going to do it; we have to establish an inside game. We have to get guys in foul trouble and get to the line ourselves.
"We played great in the first half. We had everything going in our favor. We controlled the tempo, moved the ball and made them take outside shots. There was that one stretch in the second half where they just outscored us and took control of the game. Other than that, I feel that we played a very good game. That has been the M.O. of this team. We can't play well for 48 minutes against a good team. We played hard and did the neccessary things, but we hit a stretch where we lost all of our rhythm."
While Nets fans may have seen the last of Jordan in the regular season, they may get a chance to see him in postseason. Washington (22-24) is ninth in the Eastern Conference but could earn the seventh or eighth seed in the East and face the Nets in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals
New Jersey lost point guard Jason Kidd to a strained right groin but still took control of the contest in the early stages of the fourth quarter, opening a 76-63 cushion on Aaron Williams' dunk with 7:21 to play.
Kidd was enduring a woeful 1-of-10 shooting performance before being taken out late in the third quarter. Kidd will undergo tests Thursday and is a game-time decision for Friday's contest against New Orleans.
Kidd's only basket was a 3-pointer with 9:02 to play that sliced the deficit to 51-46. Following his hoop, the Nets increased their defensive intensity on Jerry Stackhouse, who committed two turnovers, was called for an offensive foul and had a shot blocked by Jason Collins.
As Stackhouse was struggling, Nets reserve guards Anthony Johnson and Lucious Harris hit consecutive jumpers to forge a 57-57 tie with 2:40 to go.
Jefferson made two free throws to give New Jersey its first lead since the first quarter. Johnson and Jefferson converted layups around a Collins' 15-footer to close out the period.
With Johnson directing the offense, it was more of the same to start the fourth quarter. New Jersey scored the first seven points, opening a 71-59 advantage with 8:50 remaining on Johnson's layup.
"The West Coast trip took a lot out of me," Kidd said. "But tonight the guys picked me up. A.J. stepped in and did what he's done all season. Our team is very competent with A.J. running the show."
Coming off a five-game West Coast trip, the Nets came out sluggish in the first quarter. They shot just 6-of-22 in the first quarter, but trailed just 19-17 as Jordan picked up two fouls after hitting his first shot of the game.
The Wizards held a 38-27 lead following Jordan's finger roll with 5:43 remaining in the first half. But Jefferson's jumper triggered a 12-5 run to close out the half.
Stackhouse finished with 27 points for the Wizards, who have dropped six straight meetings with the Nets.