LANDOVER -- It's mid-April and the Washington Bullets have little to look forward to other than an appearance in the NBA draft lottery and postseason tee times.
But the Bullets gave an inspired effort last night in their last home game of the season, beating the Orlando Magic, 119-106, before a surprisingly large and boisterous crowd of 16,317 at the Capital Centre.
The game, matching the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference, was the kind that most fans usually stay away from in droves, fearing lack of effort by two teams playing with little incentive.
But the Bullets (25-56) turned in a particularly crisp performance in their home finale, hitting 49 percent of their shots, and forcing 23 Magic turnovers, while committing only 13 themselves.
"We realize that we weren't going anywhere for the last month," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld. "But it's very important that we, as professionals, continue to give the effort."
Said guard Michael Adams: "You can't quit. You're going to get critiqued from the first game to the last, but we have to give the same effort from the first game to the last, too."
Adams certainly did, scoring a game-high 34 points, his best output in three weeks, with five three-pointers to go with seven assists and four steals.
"He [Adams] is just very active, and against this team, you have to be very sharp with your passes, have good spacing, catch the ball well and have good opportunities," said Orlando coach Matt Guokas.
Adams was assisted by forward Ledell Eackles, who followed up Tuesday's 38-point performance in New York with 27.
Orlando's Nick Anderson scored 27, and Brian Williams, who played for a year at Maryland before transferring to Arizona, had 20 in his first game back in the area.
Both teams were hit hard by injuries, as the Magic (21-60) played
without center Stanley Roberts and forwards Terry Catledge, Jerry Reynolds and Dennis Scott.
But the Bullets' frontcourt ailments to center Pervis Ellison and forward Harvey Grant were potentially more damaging, since the team is undersized even with them.
Despite being out-rebounded 54-39 (17-8 on the offensive end), Washington, which at times used a four-guard offense, was able to counter Orlando's size with an intermittent half-court trap and quickness.
"That's indicative of our whole season," said reserve guard A.J. English. "Our lack of size inside leads to us being out-rebounded. We did the other things that enabled us to get a win -- established our break and got some easy buckets."