Grant steps up in Bullets' win Fills void with 34

Celtics fall, 101-97

November 18, 1992|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- For the first two weeks of the NBA season, Washington Bullets coaches and fans had been waiting for the real Harvey Grant to stand up.

The fifth-year forward from Oklahoma, who signed a six-year contract this summer worth $17.1 million thanks to a New York Knicks offer sheet, had struggled with his shooting and rebounding while the Bullets dropped five of their first six games.

But last night, with starting center Pervis Ellison out with a sore knee and scoring leader Rex Chapman retiring at halftime due to back spasms, Grant stepped forward.

He scored a career-tying 34 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked two shots to spark the Bullets to a 101-97 victory over the Boston Celtics before 18,114.

Grant scored his last basket on a floater in the lane to give Washington a 90-89 lead. But the Bullets couldn't beat the 24-second clock on either of their next two possessions, enabling the Celtics to move ahead 93-92 on Kevin McHale's push shot with 1:38 left.

But just when the game seemed to be slipping away, rookie Tom Gugliotta joined veteran point guard Michael Adams and small forward Buck Johnson in pulling it out, handing the Celtics (2-5) their third straight loss.

Gugliotta (17 points, 12 rebounds), who has looked like anything but a rookie, tied it at 93 by making one of two free throws.

After Celtics guard Sherman Douglas missed a jump shot, Adams took a full-court pass from Grant for an uncontested layup. Xavier McDaniel misfired on Boston's next possession, and Gugliotta made an open 20-footer for a four-point advantage.

Johnson then made the defensive play of the night, tying up McHale and forcing a jump ball with 37 seconds left.

Still, the Celtics twice closed within a basket, the last time on Douglas' layup with 10 seconds to play. But this time Gugliotta released down court to stuff home the clinching basket.

Asked to explain his early-season slump, Grant said, "I really haven't been looking for my shot that much. I guess I've been looking for Ellison and Chapman to carry the scoring.

"But tonight, with Pervis missing, I came out looking for my shot. And when I hit three quick ones, I started feeling it, and taking it to the hole, and all my shots were dropping."

The Celtics had to agree.

"Grant really scorched us," said coach Chris Ford. "We didn't have anyone who could double-team him."

With Grant hitting, it was almost possible to overlook the major contribution of rookie guard Doug Overton (11 points, three rebounds) who, little more than a month ago was still playing for Sydney in the Australian Basketball League.

When Chapman made his exit two minutes into the second half, coach Wes Unseld called on Overton, who made the Bullets as the "13th man" and spent the first two weeks of the season on the injured list.

The former La Salle star, who was drafted on the second round in 1991 and cut by the Detroit Pistons, attacked the basket for a pair of layups and hit a three-pointer that produced a 75-75 tie early in the third quarter.

"I don't feel any pressure," said Overton. "The real pressure for me was showing up the last two weeks of training camp and winning a spot.

"Now I'm just trying to stay ready when they call my name. I know the Celtics guards playing me -- Reggie Lewis and Kevin Gamble -- are stronger, but I'm quicker, and I felt I could beat them off the dribble."

And then, of course, there was Gugliotta, who is even hearing people call him "another Bird," in honor of the retired Celtics legend.

Gugliotta got his first close-up look at future Hall of Famers McHale and Robert Parish and came away with at least a draw. "I've been watching and admiring these guys for a long time," he said. "They're still great, but I'm no longer in awe."

Gugliotta almost single-handedly battled the bigger Celtics on the boards in the first half, when Boston enjoyed a 31-19 rebounding edge. But Grant and Charles Jones, who started in place of the ailing Ellison, helped out in the second half and forced the Celtics to hurry their shots with the game on the line.

"To win it with Ellison and Chapman out was especially satisfying," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld. "Tonight, everyone hung tough."

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