Radja, Celtics pull away from Bullets

January 10, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Forget that the Washington Bullets had a 7-23 record going into last night's game. They were matched against the Boston Celtics who, despite their losing record, would be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

For the Bullets, who trailed the Celtics by 4 1/2 games, it was a chance to gain some ground.

Boston was struggling, losing two straight going into last night. Boston was weakened, with two key players going out with injuries in the third quarter. But Boston, with the returning Dino Radja scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, had enough to beat the Bullets, 114-101, last night at Boston Garden.

It was the eighth straight loss for the Bullets, and the 16th over the last 17 games.

It was a winnable game for the Bullets, who got 24 points and 11 assists from Scott Skiles and 19 from Gheorghe Muresan -- matching his career high.

They trailed 86-79 going into the final quarter, but the Celtics were without starting center Eric Montross, who was poked in the eye in the third quarter and didn't return, and starting power forward Pervis Ellison, who departed with flu symptoms in the third quarter.

But Dominique Wilkins, who scored a game-high 34 points, and -- more importantly -- Radja, coming back after 15 games out with a broken hand, remained.

Coming off the bench last night, Radja's fourth-quarter explosion helped the Celtics lead by as many as 13 points.

Boston led 100-95 with 5:01 to play when Washington was called for illegal defense for the fifth time. Wilkins converted the free throw and Radja made two baskets before Dee Brown's three-pointer completed an 8-0 run and gave the Celtics a 108-97 lead. The Celtics were able to hold on to end their two-game losing streak and improve to 13-19.

Earlier in the day the Bullets announced that Kevin Duckworth would be out at least the next 10 days with a sore left Achilles' tendon that has forced him to miss five games.

So once again Muresan was in the starting lineup and the 7-foot-7 center handled every player the Celtics threw at him.

He scored 15 points in the first half and his hook shot with 6:04 left in the first half helped the Bullets to a 46-35 lead.

But the Celtics rallied over the last half of the quarter and, after a three-pointer by Rick Fox with 1.1 seconds left, took a 60-57 halftime lead.

It had started out as a rough night for Muresan who, after scoring Washington's first four points, picked up his second foul just over three minutes into the game and was forced to the bench the rest of the quarter.

He had helped the Bullets to a 6-2 lead, but Wilkins scored seven points during a 12-2 run, and his dunk gave the Celtics a 14-8 lead with 6:15 left.

The Bullets, who managed just five shot attempts in the first six minutes, settled down once they were able to get to the basket. Rex Chapman, Calbert Cheaney and Skiles each hit three-pointers during a 17-5 run, with Cheaney's trey with 2:08 left giving Washington a 25-19 lead. By the end of the quarter the Bullets led 29-24.

Muresan returned at the start of the second quarter, and he scored 11 of the Bullets' first 17 points. Montross, Derek Strong and Radja all took brief turns at Muresan, with little success. His short hook in the lane with 6:04 left matched Washington's biggest lead, 46-35.

Washington's lead was 53-46 when Larry Stewart checked in for Muresan with 3:17 left, and it looked like a good move to help Muresan avoid his third foul.

But over that span the Celtics held the Bullets without a field goal and outscored Washington 14-4. Boston's last three field goals were three-pointers. Brown's three-pointer with 29.4 seconds left tied the game at 57. And the three by Fox (3-for-3 from beyond the arc in the first half) with 1.1 seconds left gave Boston a 60-57 halftime lead.

The Celtics, who got 24 points in the first half by Wilkins, increased their lead to 67-61 after a tip by Montross.

For the Bullets, Muresan became a non-factor in the third quarter as none of Washington's offense was run his way during the period.

Washington did get as close as 73-71 after a three-pointer by Chapman with 5:27 left. But the Celtics would increase their lead by as many as eight, and had an 86-79 advantage going into the final quarter.


Opponent: Atlanta Hawks

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 7:30

TV/Radio: HTS/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: Friday against the Bullets, Lenny Wilkens notched career victory No. 939 to claim the record for all-time coaching wins. Tonight the Hawks, who had lost three straight before the record-breaker, come to the USAir Arena having won two straight. G Stacey Augmon (16.3 ppg) and G Mookie Blaylock (15.5 ppg) are the top scorers for the Hawks. The Bullets have lost eight in a row.

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