Cheaney howling success in win over Wolves

February 18, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- It was draft day 1993 and the Washington Bullets wanted Isaiah Rider. Badly. But the Minnesota Timberwolves grabbed Rider with the fifth pick, and the Bullets, choosing sixth, settled for Calbert Cheaney.

Last night Cheaney showed the fans why he was perhaps the right choice, scoring a career-high 30 points and sparking a late rally in Washington's 109-105 win before 8,206 at the USAir Arena.

Eight of Cheaney's points came in a 2:36 span in the fourth quarter, helping increase a two-point lead to 98-90 with 3:02 left. The Bullets led by as many as nine in breaking a four-game losing streak and sweeping their two-game season series over Minnesota.

For the game, Cheaney hit 11 of 16 shots -- including seven of eight in the second half. Rider's line: 12 points, one rebound and zero assists in 17 minutes.

"[Calbert] shot the ball with a lot of confidence -- more importantly he didn't let Rider get going," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "He didn't get a rebound or an assist, but he had a pretty good all-around game."

So did the Bullets as a team, who had five players in double figures. Tom Gugliotta (18 points, 18 rebounds), Gheorghe Muresan (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Michael Adams (17 points, 13 assists) posted double doubles, with Don MacLean came within a rebound of one.

Also making a key contribution was Pervis Ellison, who, although scoring just six points and grabbing four rebounds, had two of his three blocks down the stretch.

Minnesota's comeback was sparked by Doug West (26 points) and Chuck Person (24 points). Washington led 77-70 going into the final period, but West singlehandedly kept the Timberwolves in the game, scoring 12 of his team's first 16 points of the quarter. His layup with 5:54 left brought the Wolves within 88-86.

But then Cheaney took charge. The 6-foot-7 rookie scored eight during a 12-4 run that increased the Washington lead to 100-90.

Person hit two of his three fourth-quarter three-pointers in the last 29.1 seconds, the final one pulling Minnesota within 103-98 with 2.5 seconds left. It was a night where the rally was too little, too late. And Cheaney had a lot to do with it.

"My release felt good and when it feels good, it usually goes in," Cheaney said. "That's what happens when we as a team play well."

Minnesota coach Sidney Lowe came away impressed with Cheaney's performance.

"He's a great young talent," Lowe said. "He's much smarter than most of the other rookies."

As for Lowe's lottery pick, there's still some growing pains. Rider is unquestionably the better athlete, winning the slam dunk contest last weekend in Minneapolis. And he's probably better known as a pro, with a more outgoing personality and his own shoe contract.

But he's also caused problems. He missed a practice because he was tired from filming a TV commercial the previous day. On Feb. 6 he was suspended against Houston after missing practice. He said he didn't know the location of the practice, which was held at The Summit -- Houston's home court.

Cheaney, on the other hand, has been a model citizen. He started at small forward and moved to shooting guard after Rex Chapman went out with a dislocated right ankle Jan. 17.

"Calbert has emerged since Rex went out," Unseld said. "It will be nice to have both of them back at the same time."

It might be a while until Chapman comes back. And during that time Cheaney's game should continue to grow.

"It's been a slow process," Cheaney said of his adjustment to the NBA. "I'm still learning how to play the two guard. I felt good tonight."

Even Rider was impressed. He had a good look at Cheaney's performance -- much of it from the bench due to foul trouble.

"He obviously had a good night, but this is just one of many," Rider said. "They've just gotten him into the offense and he's doing well. . . . He's a good player."

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