Bullets' season mercifully ends with loss 76ers win, 111-104, despite Eackles' 31

April 19, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- "Everyone was watching the clock, wanting to get it over," Bullets rookie forward Larry Stewart said after the rapidly played season finale with Philadelphia at the Spectrum last night. The 76ers completed a five-game series sweep, 111-104.

Now, instead of watching the clock, both teams will count the days until the NBA lottery, May 17, when they hope a lucky draw will put them back in contention next season.

Washington (25-57), which posted its fewest victories since the 1966-67 season in Baltimore when the team won 20 games, will have eight pingpong balls in the lottery hopper while praying for a first or second selection that would bring them a Shaquille O'Neal or Alonzo Mourning. The 76ers (35-57), suffering their worst season in 17 years, will have only three balls in the hopper.

If they get lucky, they will be more inclined to trade outspoken superstar Charles Barkley, who has publicly criticized team management and his teammates for the 76ers' steep decline.

"I'm not concerning myself with the future right now except to say I'll be playing golf the next two weeks," said the perennial All-NBA forward, who earns more than $3 million per season.

"I don't think the world will stop if I get traded or stay here. It's not a life-or-death situation. I've said before that I'd like to stay if the owner [Harold Katz] makes a serious effort to improve the team. If we make the right changes, I'll be happy to stay. But a new environment might be good, too."

There was also speculation over whether Katz would rehire coach Jim Lynam, who has been criticized for not being more of a taskmaster.

Asked to assess his team's performance this season on a scale of A to F, Lynam said, "I'd rate it closer to the latter."

Like Bullets counterpart Wes Unseld, he bemoaned the absence of a consistent offense.

"In the 34 games we were held to under 100 points, we won only four of them," he said.

Unseld had more of an excuse. He lost his two best players -- forwards Bernard King and John Williams -- before the season started. Other starters took turns on the injured list, and last night's finale was typical, with scoring and rebounding leader Pervis Ellison and forward Harvey Grant both sitting out.

"This was just like every other game we lost to the 76ers this season," said Unseld. "We'd be leading or close in the fourth quarter, and then we just couldn't score."

The Bullets led 95-94 with 10 minutes left, but managed only nine points the rest of the way -- seven by Ledell Eackles, who carried the offense with a game-high 31 points.

Sixth man Ron Anderson, who performs like an All-Star against the Bullets, scored nine points in a three-minute stretch to give the 76ers a commanding 107-97 lead with 5:32 remaining.

Unseld was reluctant to address his team's primary needs immediately after the game, but a legitimate rebounding center and a consistent-shooting small forward or guard are high on his list.

He got his first look last night at Rex Chapman, the Bullets possible shooting guard of the future. Chapman, acquired in a Feb. 19 trade with Charlotte in exchange for forward Tom Hammonds, had missed 60 games with a heel injury.

The former Kentucky star, who was the Hornets' No. 1 draft pick in 1988, played 22 minutes and scored 10 points, but was obviously disoriented and short on stamina.

"This was the first time I've played with these guys," he said, "and they had to help me out in running plays. I was a little tentative at first, but my heel and Achilles' didn't bother me. I'm

encouraged."

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