Chapman takes over late, helps Bullets clip L.A. for 3rd straight

January 16, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- The schedule-makers proved to be kind to the Washington Bullets, who were looking to win three straight games for the first time this season.

How else could you explain having the Los Angeles Clippers -- losers of seven of eight games going into last night -- served up last night in the Bullets' quest for three straight. It wasn't easy -- and certainly not a game of beauty -- but Washington accomplished the bottom line in a 118-109 win before 15,330 at USAir Arena.

Not only was it the first time the Bullets had won three straight, but it also was the first time that has happened since November 1992. Rex Chapman's 25 points led six players in double figures for the Bullets, who seem to have shaken their dreadful December. During that 2-14 month, the Bullets lost in Los Angeles to the Clippers, 109-92.

"This is the way we played back in November," forward Don MacLean (21 points) said of the 6-6 first month of the season. "I think it's encouraging we're getting back to winning. We've come back strong."

It was a very strong final four minutes for the Bullets, who were tied at 107 after Ron Harper (26 points) hit a driving layup with 4:03 left. But Chapman answered with his second three-pointer of the quarter with 3:15 left to put Washington up for good, 110-107.

Chapman, who hit three of eight shots in the first half, had 14 points in the fourth quarter. He was 4-for-4, playing just seven minutes.

"He made some tough jump shots for us," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld.

And the Clippers, without leading scorer Danny Manning (sprained ankle), had no one to make those shots.

Yes, the Clippers had the shooters, with Harper and Mark Aguirre (23 points). But passing didn't appear in the vocabulary of either player, who passed up open teammates all night.

Harper had two assists and took 22 shots in 41 minutes; Aguirre had four assists and took 20 shots in 38 minutes.

For the third game in a row the Bullets shot well, hitting 51.7 percent with all five starters scoring in double figures. In the three-game streak the Bullets have been running the ball more, which is better suited for Michael Adams, who had 15 assists and 11 points.

"We stress that against certain teams, if we get the ball off the glass and get the numbers, we're going to take advantage of that," Adams said. "We have guys shooting the ball well, and we're going to just take it at people. We're going to play that way."

It's a style that pleased the crowd, unlike the beginning of last night's game where it was hard to fit in a fast break between whistles. The Clippers benefited the most, going to the free-throw line 25 times en route to a 59-58 halftime lead.

Washington, fresh off its surprising win over the Houston Rockets on Thursday, had gotten off to a quick start, taking a 20-7 lead after a running jumper by Chapman with 5:31 left in the first quarter.

The Bullets had their running game in gear, shooting 50.0 percent in the period. But the Clippers ended the quarter with a 16-6 run that, after a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Tom Tolbert, had Los Angeles within 30-27.

A 66.6 percent second quarter gave the Clippers the halftime lead.

From there the game was back-and-forth until the last four minutes, when Chapman made his impact.

"I was trying to stay with him," Harper said. "But he just kept making big shots for his team and they won. That's the way it works."

It was the first game all season that the Bullets had won after trailing at the half. Los Angeles coach Bob Weiss thought his team, after a slow start, gave a solid first-half effort.

"We had our biggest first half of the year, and they stayed with us," Weiss said. "They were real sharp on offense, and we couldn't hold them off."

And that was the result of the Bullets constantly pushing the ball. Asked whether his team is making a more concerted effort to push the ball, Unseld said that's not the case.

"We've emphasized running from Day One," Unseld said. "Part of this is being at home and just feeling comfortable with your daily routine."

And feeling comfortable beating the lower-division teams, something the cellar-dwelling Bullets have struggled to do.

"These are the teams that we're supposed to beat," MacLean said. "It feels good to be on the end of a winning streak instead of a losing one. We just have to keep working hard all game."

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