Jazz leaves Bullets with sour note, 102-96

December 19, 1993|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- For the Washington Bullets, the losing had reached the point where a team meeting was necessary. So, two hours before last night's game against the Utah Jazz, owner Abe Pollin and general manager John Nash met with the coaches and players.

So what happens? The struggling Bullets led by 13 points early in the fourth quarter, but hit just one field goal in the last eight minutes on their way to a 102-96 loss at USAir Arena.

For their effort the Bullets were showered with boos by what was left of the sellout crowd at game's end. It was the 10th straight loss for Washington (6-16), the longest losing streak since the franchise moved here in 1973. The franchise record is 13 set by the Baltimore Bullets during in 1966-67 season, and to avoid that Washington will have to win on the road, where their next four games will be played.

In the locker room after the game you had to strain to hear the voices of the Bullets who hit just four of 17 shots (23.5 percent) in the fourth quarter, when they scored 12 points -- their lowest scoring fourth quarter of the season.

"It's tough, that's all I can say. . . . I don't know what to say," a dejected Rex Chapman said. "It was just a matter of us beating ourselves."

With a little help from Karl Malone, who came back from a slow, foul-plagued start to score 26 points, and John Stockton, who scored 18 points and had 16 assists. Malone scored nine points and grabbed six of his team-high 14 rebounds during the fourth quarter, which he played despite picking up his fifth foul with 10:46 left.

"Once I got five fouls I made up my mind either I would foul out, or get it doing something aggressive," Malone said. "You can't worry about picking up the sixth foul."

Malone picked up his sixth with 16 seconds left, but by that time the damage was done. His defensive presence helped keep the Bullets without a field goal for 7:36 in the fourth quarter. He also scored four points during a 12-0 Utah run that turned a six-point deficit with 6:53 left to a 99-93 lead after a dunk by Felton Spencer.

Don MacLean (29 points) ended Washington's drought with a layup that brought the Bullets to 99-95 with 1:08 left -- the first field goal since Tom Gugliotta's layup had given the Bullets a 91-83 lead. But it was too late.

Washington's 26 turnovers hurt, with three of those coming during Utah's fourth-quarter run. The Bullets also had two shots blocked during the run in which nothing went right for Washington.

"I thought they really turned it up defensively during the last quarter," MacLean said. "This is really tough. It looks like you're going to finally win a game, and you lose it in the end."

The Bullets lost despite outshooting the Jazz, 51.5 percent to 45.5 percent. Washington also had a rebounding edge (41-39), but turnovers and poor shot selection at times were the key.

"I thought we had good opportunities," coach Wes Unseld said. "We just didn't get anything to go down, and we had some ill-advised shots."

Washington, a 113-91 loser at Utah on Dec. 8, took a different approach going into last night's game. In that game Malone was dominant inside against Gugliotta, scoring 27 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

Last night, Unseld had Kevin Duckworth on Malone and Gugliotta on Spencer. The move forced Malone to operate farther from the basket that he's accustomed. He had 10 points and four rebounds in a first half in which he sat out the final 10 minutes after picking up his third foul.

"They had us playing their game almost all night," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said.

The Bullets had a 56-47 lead at the half, and led by as many as 15 -- 74-59 -- after a jumper by MacLean capped a 14-2 run that had the crowd roaring with 6:31 left in the third quarter. But Utah outscored Washington 17-10 the rest of the quarter -- seven points from Malone -- to go into the final quarter trailing 84-76.

"A loss like this is real frustrating, especially when you're on a losing streak like ours," MacLean said. "And to lose it in the end like that, that's tough."

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