Bullets wake up against Nets

January 12, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Forty-one times a season, fans of the New Jersey Nets show up at Meadowlands Arena and guess which home team will show up. Will it be the team that the week after Christmas beat the Atlanta Hawks and the New York Knicks in back-to-back games? Or the team that a week ago lost back-to-back games to the Miami Heat and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Fortunately for the Washington Bullets, they caught up with the pathetic version of the Nets. That version, with two probable All-Stars, had just one starter score in double figures in last night's 115-100 loss.

It was finally a breather for Washington, which broke a two-game losing streak and scored more than 100 points in back-to-back games for the first time in over a month. For maybe the first time this season, a Bullets broadcaster could repeat three words that have absent from his vocabulary -- Bullets by 30 -- as Washington held an 85-55 lead in the third quarter.

"We just came together," said Washington guard Brent Price, who matched a season high with 15 points, and added five assists in 24 minutes. "We finally got it all together at one time."

And at the expense of the Nets, who, with Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson, have two probable All-Stars (Coleman leads voting among all forwards, Anderson is second among guards, behind B. J. Armstrong of the Chicago Bulls). Yet neither player was much of a factor.

The only starter in double figures, Coleman scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds but, aside from a brief run in the third quarter, was quiet. Anderson, who went into the game averaging 18.3 points and 9.3 assists, scored just four points on 1-for-11 shooting from the field. In all, New Jersey's starting five was outscored by Washington's, 69-46.

"This was the most disappointing game of the year," said New Jersey coach Chuck Daly. "We take one step forward, and two steps back. I can't figure this club out."

"We noticed on tape that their shot selection wasn't that good," Price said. "If you block out and get rebounds, you have a chance to run on them."

By halftime, the Bullets had a 68-52 lead, their highest point total for a first half all season (Washington previously scored 66 against the Charlotte Hornets on Nov. 19). Everyone was contributing: Don MacLean scored 14 of his team-high 20 in the first half, Kenny Walker had 11 and Calbert Cheaney eight.

"We were playing real hard, and by getting such a big lead, they had to play catch-up," Rex Chapman said. "When you get in a deep hole, it's tough to get out."

New Jersey tried to dig out, after a 17-3 run by the Bullets to open the second quarter gave Washington its biggest lead, 85-55, after two free throws by Michael Adams.

Apparently, losing to the last-place team in the conference sent a wake-up call to Coleman, who began to assert himself in the low post. .

At the start of the final period, it looked as if the Bullets were about to do the unthinkable -- blow a 30-point lead. While the Bullets were missing their first five shots at the start of the fourth quarter, New Jersey forward Chris Morris got out of Daly's doghouse for enough time to score nine of New Jersey's first 11 points of the quarter, with his three-pointer pulling the Nets to within 90-78 with 8:08 left in the game.

"I don't think it was a panic," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "As long as we stayed above [15]."

Price put it back at 15, hitting a three-pointer with 9:12 left that increased the lead to 90-75 and ended a scoreless stretch of nearly eight minutes. That shot apparently got the Bullets untracked, and they increased the lead to 101-85 after Tom Gugliotta's jumper with 4:19 left.

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