Stewart and Bullets catch Rockets napping, post first .500-plus road win

February 09, 1993|By Eddie Sefko | Eddie Sefko,Contributing Writer

HOUSTON -- The Washington Bullets started their lengthy trip west by giving themselves a Texas treat.

They rode Larry Stewart's season-best 21 points for a 106-100 victory over the Houston Rockets last night at The Summit. It was the Bullets' fourth road victory of the season and first against a team with a winning record.

The Rockets, rather than the Bullets, looked like the weak, lottery-bound team. Coupled with Friday's loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Rockets have lost consecutive games at The Summit to the two worst teams in the NBA but Dallas.

"I think we caught Houston at a good time," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "It's a great win. It's been real tough for us to win anywhere."

The Bullets were paced by Stewart's hot shooting and Pervis Ellison's solid play against Hakeem Olajuwon. Ellison (19 points, rebounds) played Olajuwon to a standoff, and the rest of the Rockets were ill-equipped to handle Washington.

"We double-teamed Hakeem, and they didn't knock down their jump shots," Stewart said.

And with a window of opportunity, the Bullets capitalized. It wasn't even that close in the fourth quarter, which the Bullets opened with a 76-71 lead.

The margin quickly grew to 84-73, as Stewart continued to dismantle Houston. The Bullets forward did not score in the first half but had 20 points in the first 18 minutes of the second half. In the third period he was 6-for-6 from the field and at one point scored five consecutive baskets.

When Stewart made two free throws with 8:40 to go, the Bullets had an 86-75 lead with 8:40 left.

The Rockets had several runs left, the first of which brought them as close as 88-83 before Michael Adams -- two of 10 from the field to that point -- scored on a three-pointer and a drive to the basket to rebuild the lead to 10 points.

Houston baskets by Carl Herrera and Kenny Smith sliced the Bullets' lead to 93-87 with 4:40 to play. Adams had the ball stripped and Smith nailed a jumper to bring the Rockets within four.

But Washington scored five of the next eight points, the final two on a layup by Ellison that was goal-tended by Olajuwon with 2:17 to go.

Olajuwon had his worst game in weeks. He had to battle Ellison for every shot.

Olajuwon finally worked free for a layup with 2:03 to go, cutting the Bullets' lead to 98-94, but former Rocket Buck Johnson hit three of four free throws, the last two with 1:22 left, to raise the lead to 101-94 and snuff the Rockets.

It was Washington's first win at The Summit in four seasons. Afterward, the Rockets were kicking themselves.

"It's embarrassing," said Olajuwon, who finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. "There's no excuse. Our mental preparation was terrible."

Meanwhile, the Bullets started their seven-game western swing in grand style from the beginning.

The Bullets had a 50-49 lead at the end of the first half despite shooting 42.9 percent and surrendering 55-percent shooting to the Rockets.

The key was 10 Houston turnovers in the first half and the fact that Washington's 10 offensive rebounds resulted in 17 second-chance points.

The Rockets have had trouble all season rising above teams they are supposed to beat. They have drilled Chicago twice, but Friday's loss to lowly Minnesota was a stark reminder that they can take nobody lightly and expect to win.

"We absolutely have to take care of business in these kinds of games," coach Rudy Tomjanovich said before tipoff. "This league is just too good to half-step it against anybody."

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