Bullets get first win, 118-112 MacLean scores 24 against Pistons PRO BASKETBALL

November 10, 1993|By Bonnie DeSimone | Bonnie DeSimone,Contributing Writer

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Close. And cigars all around.

Balanced scoring, solid play from an unheralded bench, and poise down the stretch earned the Washington Bullets their first win of the season, 118-112, over the Detroit Pistons.

"I think we can compete with any team," pronounced forward Tom Gugliotta, who's not normally given to overstatement.

Sixth man Don MacLean led the Bullets with 24 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including a 14-point second quarter.

Gugliotta said the Bullets, who lost decisively to Philadelphia and Boston in their first two games, reversed fields after a team meeting Monday night.

"We decided that we weren't playing with any enthusiasm," he said. "We decided to have fun."

That hang-loose attitude may have helped the Bullets wind up on top in a seesaw second half.

The teams were tied half a dozen times during the third quarter, then traded leads six more times before the Bullets took a 103-102 lead with 4:05 left in the game on two Gugliotta free throws.

Guard Rex Chapman's three-point shot with just more than a minute remaining gave the Bullets a 115-109 margin. The Pistons (2-1) looked as if they were storming back after a layup by Terry Mills cut the lead to four, and Michael Adams, stripped in the lane by Isiah Thomas, fouled his nemesis at the other end.

But Thomas made only one of two free throws, one of several key clankers for the Pistons in the waning moments. Mills and reserve forward Kenny Walker both dived for the ball, and Mills was called for a loose-ball foul with 20.7 seconds left. Walker then added one more free throw.

Detroit called a timeout, and "Purple Haze" blared from the public address system. The music proved fitting, as the Pistons' Sean Elliott inbounded the ball, but Mills' pass ricochet off Isiah .. Thomas' hands.

Adams sealed the victory for the Bullets (1-2), sinking both free throws with 14.8 seconds left after an Elliott foul.

The victory was the Bullets' first against Detroit since 1986. They won't have a lot of time to smoke those cigars, though, as they head to USAir Arena tonight to play the Knicks (3-0).

MacLean, who entered the game at the start of the second quarter, missed his first two shots. Then he mastered his defenders -- chiefly Sean Elliott -- scoring five times in six minutes from underneath, outside and on the baseline.

"Once I hit a couple of shots, I think Mike [Adams] and Rex [Chapman] started looking for me," MacLean said. "The shots started falling, and the intensity started going."

Bullets coach Wes Unseld said he thought MacLean's appetite for competition was whetted when he had to sit out four preseason games with a pulled abdominal muscle.

"Sitting there watching the other guys play, I think made his hunger come back to the game," Unseld said.

Guard Rex Chapman had 23 points, and Tom Gugliotta finished with 21 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Elliott topped the Pistons with 27 points.

Both teams shot well, with the Bullets edging the Pistons by 56 percent to 51 percent. The Pistons out-rebounded the Bullets, 43-32, but could not compensate for the Bullets' frequent traveler miles at the free throw line. The Bullets made 22 of 29 to Detroit's 12-for-16.

Detroit coach Don Chaney allowed rookie guards Lindsey Hunter and Allan Houston to spell veterans Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars for the first sustained period this season -- 12 minutes -- in the first half. The Bullets' backcourt responded with 24 points, including Rex Chapman's 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting.

The Bullets' bench scored 37 points to the Pistons' 18.

RF "I hope this is a confidence-builder for these guys," Unseld said.

BULLETS TONIGHT

Opponent: New York Knicks

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 7:30

TV: HTS

Radio: WXZL (103.1 FM), WTEM (570 AM)

Tickets: Some good seats remain

Outlook: New York, the favorite to win the Eastern Conference title, is 3-0 after beating Philadelphia last night in its home opener, 95-86. C Patrick Ewing, who has started the season on a tear, led the Knicks in scoring in three of the five games against Washington last season. Washington won the first meeting last season in Landover, but the Knicks came back to win the final four games.

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