NEW YORK -- Michael Jordan wasn't exactly the No. 23 of old.
Jordan missed his biggest shot of the night and committed two crucial late turnovers in the Washington Wizards' 93-91 loss to the New York Knicks, Jordan's first regular-season game after a 3 1/2-year retirement.
Jordan spent the majority of his minutes at point guard, scoring 19 points and putting up decent numbers in other categories.
But the defining moment of the game Tuesday night came when he missed a 3-pointer in front of the Knicks' bench with 18 seconds left that would have tied the game.
''I had a good look and it came up short. My shot today was pretty short and pretty flat,'' Jordan said. ''It could have been a great situation, but it's the beginning of a long season -- that's the way I look at it.''
Jordan's final miss was his 14th in 21 attempts. He also had the two late turnovers, along with an airball and a missed breakaway layup in the first quarter.
''The game is a little bit different, my teammates are a little bit different, and obviously the outcome tonight is a little different from what I wanted,'' Jordan said. ''But I feel good about myself and about what the team did tonight, and we have to continue to work in the right direction.''
Wearing his familiar uniform No. 23 but the unfamiliar colors of blue, black and gold, Jordan made his much-anticipated comeback before a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden -- the site of some of his greatest moments.
He was cheered during player introductions, jeered when he tossed up an airball less than three minutes into the game and scrutinized on every move the rest of the night.
The Knicks took an 87-86 lead into the final two minutes, and after Latrell Sprewell hit a turnaround, Jordan answered with a 21-footer -- his first field goal of the quarter -- to cut New York's lead to 89-88.
The 38-year-old Jordan missed his next shot, also a jumper, and then failed to outjump Kurt Thomas, allowing him to grab an offensive rebound. That led to a pair of foul shots by Othella Harrington with 34 seconds left for a three-point lead.
Jordan threw an ill-advised pass that was stolen on Washington's next possession, but Christian Laettner stole the ball back. After Jordan missed the 3-point attempt, Thomas was fouled on the rebound and made both shots for a 93-88 lead that all but ended it.
''When I turned the ball over and saw it go into his hands and I saw him go for the shot, I thought he was going to make it,'' Thomas said. ''It's fortunate that he didn't and I was able to get the rebound.''
Sprewell led New York with 28 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, and Allan Houston had 22 to reach 10,000 points for his career.
Chris Whitney scored 18 points to lead the rest of the Wizards, who would have made Jordan's return a much bigger success if they had converted a few of his precise passes into field goals.
As bad as his teammates looked for three quarters, they managed to open the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run and take a 71-69 lead before Jordan checked in with 8:57 left. Jordan hit his next shot and got an assist on his next pass, helping the Wizards maintain a slim lead.
Timberwolves 83, 76ers 74
MINNEAPOLIS -- Chauncey Billups scored 22 points in his new role as a reserve point guard, leading Minnesota to a victory defending Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia.
Billups scored 11 points in a 15-0 run midway through the second quarter that put Minnesota ahead to stay.
Celtics 108, Cavaliers 89
CLEVELAND -- Paul Pierce scored 29 points and Antonie Walker added 23 as Boston spoiled John Lucas' coaching debut with Cleveland.
Pierce and Walker combined for 37 first-half points and 52 in three quarters as the Celtics opened a 92-59 lead after three and rested their two star players for the entire fourth period.
Magic 114, Raptors 85
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Tracy McGrady had 23 points and Grant Hill scored 11 of his 22 points in the decisive third quarter as Orlando beat Toronto.
Darrell Armstrong added 16 for Orlando, which posted its largest margin of victory in a season debut.
Toronto was led by Chris Childs' 13 points. Keon Clark had 11 points and nine rebounds.
The Raptors almost lost more than the game, as All-Star guard Vince Carter hurt his left knee late in the second quarter. He briefly returned in the second half before sitting down when the deficit reached 21 points.
Nets 103, Pacers 97
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jason Kidd had 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and New Jersey rallied from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Indiana.
Keith Van Horn added 26 points and Kerry Kittles had 20 in his first game in more than a year for the Nets.
Mavericks 94, Pistons 87
DALLAS -- Michael Finley scored 34 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 21 and Dallas opened the American Airlines Center with a victory over Detroit.
Steve Nash had 14 points and 11 assists, and Juwan Howard added 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, who spoiled the debut of Detroit coach Rick Carlisle.
Spurs 109, Clippers 98
SAN ANTONIO -- Steve Smith scored 19 points and Antonio Daniels scored all of his 17 points in the third quarter, leading San Antonio past the Clippers.
Tim Duncan finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds for San Antonio.
Bucks 119, Jazz 112, OT
SALT LAKE CITY -- Ray Allen scored 32 points, Glenn Robinson had 28, and Sam Cassell added 25 in Milwaukee's come-from-behind victory over Utah.
The Jazz held Milwaukee's big three in check for three quarters, but the Bucks erased a 91-80 deficit midway through the fourth quarter by outscoring Utah 11-1 in the last 3:14 of the period.
Nuggets 99, Suns 96
PHOENIX -- Nick Van Exel had 27 points and nine assists, and Denver spoiled Stephon Marbury's debut with Phoenix.
The Nuggets, who improved to 2-0 in season openers against Phoenix, were solid down the stretch, weathering a 7-0 surge by the Suns in the final three minutes.
Rockets 89, Hawks 84, OT
HOUSTON -- Steve Francis scored 23 points, including seven in overtime, and Houston started the post-Hakeem Olajuwon era with a victory over Atlanta.
Cuttino Mobley had 21 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets, playing without Olajuwon for the first time in 17 seasons.
Kings 101, SuperSonics 95
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Vlade Divac scored 27 points, and Mike Bibby had 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists to lead Sacramento past Seattle.
Peja Stojakovic scored 26 points as the Kings, who will be without injured Chris Webber for the near future, barely held off Seattle with the combined efforts of a seven-man rotation.
Divac also had eight rebounds and eight assists while running the floor and banging inside with vigor. Bibby, acquired in an offseason trade for Jason Williams, quickly became a crowd favorite, particularly when he scored seven points in the final 63 seconds of the third quarter.
Lakers 98, Trail Blazers 87
LOS ANGELES -- Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant each scored 29 points as the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers began their quest for a three-peat by beating Portland.
Dominating the middle against the smaller Blazers, O'Neal was 9-of-16 from the line and had 18 rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots.
Rasheed Wallace led the Blazers with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Damon Stoudamire had 20 points and six assists.
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