Celtics crash Bullets' party

November 20, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- Calbert Cheaney lay on the USAir Arena floor, his head buried between his knees. In the much anticipated debut of Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, Cheaney tried to give the Washington Bullets a storybook ending, but was unable to get a shot off in the final second.

Webber, who collided with Cheaney in the last-second scramble for the loose ball, picked Cheaney off the floor and gave him a big hug, a clear sign there would be no sulking on this night. The game would go down as a 103-102 loss to the Boston Celtics, but for the Bullets it also was a new beginning.

Thus, there was no real disappointment among the sellout crowd of 18,756 that got a brief sample of the new brand of basketball that's coming its way.

Webber, the just acquired 1993-94 Rookie of the Year who flew cross country and didn't arrive in town until 7:30 a.m. yesterday, had nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks in 23 minutes. Top draft pick Howard had 10 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes. Neither shot well, (Webber was 4-for-13; Howard 4-for-10), but both showed enough skills to leave everyone impressed.

"Given the circumstances, I felt they played extremely well," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "I'm quite pleased."

Howard had just one practice, on Friday night. Webber received a brief rundown of the plays before tipoff.

Yet both were on the floor for key stretches in the fourth quarter, with Howard scoring eight points and grabbing seven rebounds in eight fourth-quarter minutes and Webber playing an intimidating role inside, blocking shots and rebounding.

"I think it worked pretty well," said Webber, acquired Thursday from the Golden State Warriors. "It's just going to take a few days, but we'll get it done. Besides a playoff game, I never felt this kind of excitement. I'm definitely happy to be a Bullet."

It was a game that the Bullets appeared to have won, after a foul-line jumper by Cheaney with 3.1 seconds left gave Washington a 102-101 lead. But the Celtics inbounded the ball quickly to Dee Brown, and Rex Chapman -- who tried to step in to take a charge -- was called for a foul.

"It was just a bad decision," Chapman said. "You can run up on people sometimes and get them to commit a turnover. I didn't know if it warranted calling a foul."

Brown (22 points, eight assists) hit both free throws to give Boston the 103-102 lead with 1.6 seconds left.

After a clock malfunction, Scott Skiles threw a second length-of-court pass, but neither Cheaney nor Webber could handle the loose ball, and the Bullets lost their third straight to drop to 4-4.

Both Webber and Howard received loud ovations during pre-game introductions. The new era for the Bullets officially began when Howard entered the game with 4:21 left in the first quarter and Washington trailing 20-19.

Twenty-four seconds later the Bullets ran a play for Howard on the right baseline. But there would be no dream beginning for Howard, as Dino Radja swatted away his first shot.

"I was upset," Howard said. "I took my first NBA shot and got it put back in my face."

Webber, standing alongside Howard in the locker room, said, "Welcome to the NBA."

Shortly afterward a chant of "We want Chris" began to fill the arena, and with 2:30 left in the quarter Webber entered in place of Kevin Duckworth (18 points, eight rebounds).

Howard would finish the quarter missing all four of his shots and grabbing two rebounds. Webber didn't take a shot, and grabbed two boards. But in their short time on the floor together the Bullets showed signs of being a running team, with Webber and Howard filling the lanes nicely on the fast break.

Trailing 31-28, Howard opened the second quarter with a short hook shot -- off a feed from Webber -- for his first NBA basket. Then Webber got his first basket on a layup with 9:41 left. The 6-foot-10 forward then swatted a layup attempt by Dominique Wilkins, beginning a fast break that ended with a dunk by Don MacLean and a 34-33 lead.

Neither Webber nor Howard really has a full grasp of the Bullets' offensive and defensive schemes, which was evident at times. Howard would hit just one of seven shots, to go along with three rebounds and two fouls. Webber, in 11 minutes, had four points, three rebounds and one block in the quarter.

"I think the anticipation caused a lot of nervousness," Webber said.

Both sat out the first part of the third quarter, which the Bullets opened with a 23-5 run to take a 72-63 lead. But they played together the last part of the third quarter, and the start of the fourth. At the end they began to jell, but it was not their night. No one was upset, though.

"I'm not looking back at all -- I'm looking toward the future," Webber said. "I'm happy, and I'm ready to win some games."

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