Again, Bullets can't solve 76ers Missed free throws costly in 92-86 loss

January 30, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- When the Philadelphia 76ers swept their five-game series with the Washington Bullets last season, it was easy to finger Charles Barkley as the culprit.

But now Barkley has taken his intimidating act to Phoenix, and the 76ers still are beating up on the Bullets like a ring champion toying with a novice boxer.

The 76ers made it seven straight over Washington last night at The Spectrum, using a 10-0 run early in the third quarter to build an 82-70 lead and coast to a 92-86 victory.

This time, the Bullets simply shot themselves out of the game at the line. As coach Wes Unseld noted, his team had more field goals, rebounds and assists than Philadelphia, but converted only 13 of 23 free throws while the 76ers were making 21 of 25.

That was the obvious difference, but the Bullets' offense simply came apart in the fourth quarter when rookie guard Brent Price had trouble getting the ball over the mid-court line under pressure. He turned the ball over three times in getting double-teamed down low.

The 76ers repeatedly converted these mistakes into breakaway layups and dunks.

"When you hold a team to 92 points, you're supposed to win," Unseld said. "But we threw the ball away and didn't give ourselves a chance to score.

"We were just doing a lot of dumb things. You've got to do the little things to win close games, especially making free throws."

One of the only saving graces for the Bullets (12-28) was the aggressive play of Tom Gugliotta. The rookie forward grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds in 37 minutes, but his 2-for-13 shooting was typical of his offensive struggles the past month.

"I've been rushing my shots," said the former North Carolina State star. "I'm not getting completely set or getting shots out of the offense like I was earlier in the year. I've lost my rhythm, and I've forced up a lot of shots with the clock running out."

But Gugliotta had plenty of company in being out of sync. His fellow front-liners, forward Harvey Grant (2-for-8) and center Pervis Ellison (3-for-10), seemed just as frustrated trying to shoot over Manute Bol, the 76ers' razor-thin 7-foot-7 center.

Bol, who has made Philadelphia respectable since becoming a starter in December when Andrew Lang suffered a foot injury, was credited with five blocks. But his presence under the basket made the Bullets settle for perimeter shots or negated fast-break opportunities.

Only Michael Adams, who was 10-for-17 in scoring 22 points, found the basket with any consistency. The rest of the Bullets shot a combined 35 percent.

"We stopped setting picks in the fourth quarter," said Adams. "We just didn't get any easy shots."

The 76ers (17-23), who like the Bullets, again appear lottery-bound, simply played well for a three-minute stretch in the fourth quarter, and that proved more than enough.

"This was a real struggle," said coach Doug Moe, who came out of retirement to try to resurrect the 76ers. "We were flat, and the game was played at a slow tempo. But that one stretch in the fourth quarter when [Johnny] Dawkins and [Ron] Anderson played well, gave us a big enough lift to pull it out."

The turning point began at the start of the last quarter when Price got his pockets picked by Dawkins and Jeff Hornacek leading to break away baskets by Anderson and Armon Gilliam.

In the space of three minutes, Price committed three turnovers, but Unseld stuck with him.

"Sure, I could have pulled him," said Unseld. "But you don't want to yank a guy right after he's made a mistake or it can kill his confidence. You've got to look down the road."

The road ahead looks full of potholes for the Bullets, who play two highly physical teams in Charlotte and New York in the next four days.

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