76ers pick off Bullets, hold on for 106-102 win

March 01, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- There was a little more than a minute left in the game and the Washington Bullets were trailing by one when Juwan Howard was double-teamed in the low post. In an instant, Chris Webber cut free and Howard spotted him, lofting a pass toward the rim.

That play worked for the Bullets in Saturday's win over the Sacramento Kings. But last night against Philadelphia, Clarence Weatherspoon intercepted the pass in the lane, and the 76ers left the USAir Arena with a 106-102 win before 12,209.

It was the Bullets' third loss in four games against Philadelphia this season. Washington was looking to string together a winning streak for the first time since beating the Sixers and New Jersey in back-to-back games in January. A win would have pulled the Bullets even with the Sixers in the standings, but instead Washington (13-41) fell two games behind Philadelphia (16-40) in maintaining the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Weatherspoon scored 30 points -- one short of his career-high -- to lead the Sixers, who stopped a four-game losing streak. But the Bullets could only blame themselves, committing 24 turnovers (one shy of their season high) and allowing the Sixers to grab 20 offensive rebounds. At one point in the first half the Bullets led by 13 points, but this team has blown leads all season.

"Twenty-four turnovers, that's a two-game total," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "They got 24 points on the break, and a good portion came off the turnovers."

Washington's starting front line of Webber, Howard and Gheorghe Muresan combined for 15 of the turnovers. Muresan, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, had four. Howard, who led the Bullets with 20 points and eight rebounds, had five. And Webber, who scored 17 points, had six.

In all it was a subpar game for Webber, who after making his first three shots of the game, then went on to make just three of 14. He also missed a potentially game-tying three-pointer with 37 seconds left.

"I put the blame on myself," Webber said. "A lot of the shots I normally hit, I missed. I thought if I had performed the way I normally would, we would have won."

The Bullets got to see Don MacLean back in uniform. MacLean, who had missed 39 games and had been on the injured list since Dec. 10 with sore knees and later a broken thumb, was activated before the game, with the team putting Rex Chapman on the injured list.

MacLean played 31 minutes, but hit just one of six shots from the field. He finished with eight points and five rebounds.

"I felt my stamina and physical strength felt good," MacLean said. "I was out of sync a little and my jumper was off. Twice my thumb got hit and there was a lot of pain. I was tentative, but it's going to take time."

The Bullets shot 51.4 percent in the first half and had a 55-48 halftime lead. But the Sixers came back in the third quarter behind Jeff Grayer, who scored 15 points in the period and helped Philadelphia to an 83-76 lead going into the final quarter.

Washington mounted its comeback behind Mitchell Butler, who scored eight points during a 17-4 Bullets run to open the period. MacLean's only field goal of the game a three-pointer tied the game at 83 during the run, which ended with a layup by Muresan that gave the Bullets a 93-87 lead.

But Philadelphia scored the next seven points. Dana Barros (19 points, 10 in the fourth quarter) got things started with a three-pointer. Weatherspoon ended the run with a short jumper, and the Sixers had a 97-93 lead with 3:53 left.

Later the Bullets had a chance to tie the game, and take the lead. Down, 101-99, with 1:24 left Webber went to the line with two free throws he hit the first and missed the second.

MacLean grabbed Webber's miss, giving the Bullets a chance to take the lead. But Howard threw the pass, Weatherspoon recorded the last of his seven steals, and the Sixers were on their way to the victory.

Webber scored seven points in the fourth, but was just two of six from the field in six minutes. He didn't commit a turnover in the fourth, but had already had his share for the game.

"A lot of those turnovers were being too unselfish," Webber said. "But I'll play better [tonight against Boston] and the team will play better.

"There's been a lot of games where I haven't played as well as I would have liked," Webber added. "But this game's more critical, more noticeable to me. I did some things that were part of our losing."

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