Sixers slip by Bullets, 105-103 Philly wins opener

Cheaney falls short on last-gasp shot

November 04, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- From a fan's standpoint, the Washington Bullets' effort in last night's NBA season opener was impressive. From the steady play of Juwan Howard to the flashes of brilliance from Calbert Cheaney, there was a lot to like.

Except for the final outcome. When it came to clutch time, the Bullets were unable to execute. They turned the ball over three times in the final minute, and Cheaney was short on a potential game-winning, three-point attempt in a 105-103 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

That's where Bullets coach Jim Lynam has his problems. He knows that despite a rash of injuries and despite that the Bullets were in a position to win after falling behind by as many as 14 points, Washington has to win such games. Especially against a team like the Sixers, second worst in the Eastern Conference last season behind the Bullets.

"I think we played extremely hard, but that's not enough," Lynam said. "This is not about playing hard, this is about winning."

The Bullets led 103-101 with 59 seconds left after a driving dunk by rookie Rasheed Wallace. After two free throws by Richard Dumas tied the game, the Bullets had a chance to take the lead. But Howard committed a turnover, losing the ball to Vernon Maxwell, and Dumas responded with a dunk.

A five-second violation and a bad pass by Cheaney on their next two possessions denied the Bullets an opportunity to tie. Washington got one final possession with three seconds left, but a three-point attempt by Cheaney fell short.

Winning may come a little easier once the Bullets get used to point guard Robert Pack. Acquired Monday from the Denver Nuggets, Pack started last night and had 15 points and six assists.

"It was rough," Pack said of his first effort. "I feel confident with this team, but you definitely would want the mistakes back I made. I think once we go on, I'll be able to settle down and be more familiar with everyone."

What was unfamiliar about last night's game was that the Spectrum became a difficult place to play. That's because the additions of rookie guard Jerry Stackhouse, Maxwell and Dumas have created an excitement here not been seen since the days of Charles Barkley.

Dumas posted impressive numbers: 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in 47 minutes. Maxwell had a career-high 14 assists, plus 18 points and seven rebounds.

And Stackhouse was as good as advertised. The third pick of the draft, he scored a game-high 27 points on 11-for-18 shooting. And the crowd of 18,168, the first opening-night sellout here since 1982, rocked like it hasn't in a long time.

Stackhouse, coming on the court afterward to do a post-game interview, was given a standing ovation by the fans who remained.

"The crowd was great, they really kept us going," Stackhouse said. "We want to make this a place again where people don't want to come and play. We're going to have our peaks and valleys throughout the season, but we want to have our peaks at home."

Philadelphia is the home of Wallace, who played his high school ball at Simon Gratz. But there was no warm welcome for him last night at the end. He was greeted warmly during the pre-game introductions, but his constant arguing with officials had the crowd turning on him quickly, resulting in loud boos.

In his NBA debut Wallace played 23 minutes and ended up with 10 points, five rebounds, five fouls and his first technical.

"That's the way I play; I play with a lot of emotion," Wallace said afterward, defending his on-the-court demeanor. "Everybody plays the game differently. I'm not going to change."

The foul trouble prevented Wallace from getting into any flow.

"He'll be fine," Lynam said of Wallace. "You have to try to minimize the little stretches when things take you out of the game. He was in and out and could never get into it."

Howard got into it. With a lot of the team's responsibility falling on his shoulders with the absence of Chris Webber (separated shoulder) and Mark Price (sore left foot), Howard played 44 minutes. He hit 12 of his 17 shots, scored 25 points and was a steady influence.

"We had a little letdown in the fourth quarter," Howard said. "We have to learn to execute when we're in a tight game like this."

That could come when Pack learns the system and his teammates. When he appeared a little out of control early, Lynam took him out and sat him down for a long stretch.

"I didn't take it personally," Pack said. "I thought it worked. It settled me down. When I came back in I was able to play my game."

The Bullets are hoping that a little fine-tuning tonight against the Detroit Pistons will help.

"The effort is there," said Cheaney, who scored 19 points. "We have players who want to win and our heart seems to be in it. We didn't have that last year."

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