Surprising Bullets sting Hornets

November 24, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The fun the Washington Bullets had in shocking the Charlotte Hornets last night didn't end with the final horn. In the locker room, the celebration continued, with players and a whole host of suited types slapping backs and shaking hands.

Facing a Charlotte team that led the NBA in scoring going intlast night, the Bullets simply outran, outhustled and shut down the Central Division-leading Hornets in a 118-98 win before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at the USAir Arena.

It was end-to-end dominance for the Bullets, who started thcrowd cheering by taking a nine-point lead in the first quarter and didn't stop until a standing ovation followed them off the court at the end.

In a building where the atmosphere can be best described adismal in recent years, to hear the way the fans roared last night was quite a shock.

"This is the most excitement we've had since the 2-0 start o1991," said Bullets point guard Michael Adams, who had 10 assists as the Bullets improved to 5-4. "Every time you play at home you expect to protect your home court. We look forward to winning most of our games here."

If the Bullets can repeat their performance of last night alseason, they'll certainly improve on last season's 15-26 home record -- and 22-60 overall record. Going against a team that had won six straight against Washington, including a 16-point victory last Friday, the Bullets were able to force the Hornets into a

franchise-record 33 turnovers (the previous high was 29 against Miami last season).

"What can I say? They beat us in every phase of the game," saiCharlotte coach Allan Bristow, whose team suffered its worst defeat of the season. "I think that was the world's record for turnovers. It happens. How can you explain it?"

For starters, how about Charlotte, which was the only team ithe NBA with five players averaging over 15 points going into last night, having just three players in double figures?

There also were a lot of "buts" with Charlotte last night. JohnnNewman led the Hornets with 24 points, but had just six in the second half. Alonzo Mourning scored 24 points and had 12 rebounds, but committed eight turnovers. Muggsy Bogues had eight assists, but he was never able to get Charlotte's fast-breaking offense in gear.

Meanwhile, Washington's depth wore down the Hornets. DoMacLean had a team-high 24 points, Tom Gugliotta scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, and the rejuvenated Kevin Duckworth matched his season high in both points and rebounds (14 and 10, respectively).

Add the fact that the Bullets' "Dog Pound" bench outscored Charlotte's 42-26 -- Mitchell Butler earned Top Dawg status with a career-high 16 points -- and you had Washington's biggest win in quite some time.

"Without a doubt, this is the biggest win since I've been here,said MacLean, in his second year. "We've had some similar scores, but this is the most talented team that we've beaten."

During the pre-game introductions, it was hard to figure out whwas the home team, as the Hornets -- with Mourning playing at the site of his college games at Georgetown -- were greeted with loud applause.

But the Bullets turned that around early, scoring the first eighpoints and shooting 53 percent from the field in taking a 35-26 lead into the second quarter.

The Hornets got as close as 46-43 after a three-pointer by Tony Bennett with 5:40 left, but Washington took a 58-51 lead into the half.

After Duckworth got his fourthfoul nearly three minutes into thsecond half, the Hornets closed to 74-68 after Mourning -- being checked by Kenny Walker -- hit two foul shots with 4:55 left. But Washington ended the quarter with a 16-10 run, scoring the last six to take a 90-78 lead to the last quarter.

A 10-0 early run in the fourth quarter increased Washington'lead to 102-82 and put the game away.

"Today we just wanted to take the ball to the basket," Duckwortsaid of the Bullets, who were tentative in Friday's 127-111 loss.

Coach Wes Unseld didn't know how to explain the turnaround.

"We're just getting good production from a lot of people," he said.

And that has resulted in four wins in five games. The 118 pointwas a season high, as well as the 33 assists and 17 steals.

With that type of game in front of a sellout crowd, the Bulletmay have gained a few converts last night.

"It feels great to get the crowd in the game like that," said BrenPrice. "Hopefully, we can continue to build on it."

@

BULLETS TONIGHT

Opponent: Cleveland Cavaliers

Site: The Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio

Time: 7:30

TV: Channel 20

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

Outlook: The Cavaliers, picked by most publications to win the Central Division after the retirement of Chicago's Michael Jordan, have lost two straight to drop to 3-6. C Brad Daugherty (17.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg) and G Mark Price (19.0 ppg, 9.1 apg) are two bright spots on a team that is the only victim of the 1-8 Milwaukee Bucks this season. Cleveland has won five straight home games against the Bullets, and had a 3-1 advantage last season, including a 39-point win on Nov. 10.

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