Sixers slip by Bullets, 105-103 Stackhouse scores 27 for Philly in opener

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

PHILADELPHIA -- It's normally one of the least-hostile arenas in the NBA, probably because in recent years the Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the league's softest teams. But the Washington Bullets had the misfortune last night of playing at the Spectrum on the coming-out of the league's newest star.

The player is Jerry Stackhouse, and his debut helped the Sixers draw 18,168 fans, the first sellout on opening night since 1982. Stackhouse didn't disappoint, scoring a game-high 27 points in Philadelphia's 105-103 win in the 1995-96 opener for both teams.

Stackhouse played 37 minutes and was 11-for-18 from the floor.

For the Bullets, Juwan Howard was steady in playing a team-high 44 minutes, recording 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Calbert Cheaney added 19 points and Robert Pack had 14.

While the Bullets were impressive in overcoming an early 14-point deficit to get themselves in a position to win, they fell apart in the final 40 seconds, committing three turnovers.

The 76ers scored the decisive basket off a bad pass by Howard. Vernon Maxwell, who had 18 points and 14 assists in his new role as the 76ers' point guard, intercepted Howard's pass and found Richard Dumas alone for the dunk that snapped a 103-103 tie with 10.6 seconds to play.

Still, Washington had a chance to win, taking the ball out of bounds with three seconds left and trailing 105-103. But Cheaney was short on a three-point attempt.

After a slow start, the Bullets closed to 79-76 going into the final period.

Former Bullets guard Jeff Malone scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, helping increase Philadelphia's lead to 84-78.

The Bullets were trailing 93-87 when they made one final run. Brent Price hit three free throws after being fouled on a three-point shot attempt, and that started Washington on a 9-0 run that turned into a 96-93 lead.

The game was tied at 99 after Cheaney hit one of three free throws with 2:07 left, and Washington had a chance to regain the lead after Stackhouse was stripped of the ball in the lane. But Pack missed on a driving layup, and Rasheed Wallace could not convert the follow. That gave the Sixers a fast-break opportunity, with Stackhouse converting with 1:38 left for a 101-99 Philadelphia lead.

Cheaney responded with a jumper. Then, after Stackhouse was stripped in the lane again, Wallace took a pass from Howard and came through with a dunk for a 103-101 Washington lead with 58 seconds left.

Dumas tied the score with two free throws before the decisive play.

Playing in the 29th and final season at the Spectrum, the 1995-96 version of the Sixers have generated fan interest not seen here since Charles Barkley departed for Phoenix. The interest mainly is from the drafting of Stackhouse, who many have labeled to be the next coming of Michael Jordan. But the Sixers have also improved with the off-season signings of Maxwell and Dumas.

With all three newcomers in the starting lineup, the Sixers fed off the energy of the crowd and scored the game's first 11 points.

But it wasn't dominance by the Sixers that got the early lead. The Bullets were simply dreadful, turning the ball over four times and missing six shots before Cheaney finally hit a three-pointer from the right corner to put Washington on the scoreboard.

It was clear that in the early part of the season the Bullets will be going through some growing pains as they attempt to get recently-acquired point guard Pack acclimated to his new team. Pack started the game and played the first 10 minutes, but he hit just one of his four shots in the opening quarter and turned the ball over twice while looking out of sync.

Also struggling early for the Bullets was Wallace, who made his debut in his hometown of Philadelphia. Wallace was greeted warmly as he was introduced, but was a non-factor.

In the first quarter he hit one of three shots, picked up two quick fouls and screamed at the officials when he was finally replaced. He finished the night with 10 points in 23 minutes.

While the Bullets struggled, the Sixers were opening leads of as many as 14 points, coming when Dumas hit a jumper that made it 23-8 with 4:37 left in the quarter. But the Sixers were hurt by foul trouble to Shawn Bradley, who picked up his second and third fouls in a span of five seconds. The third foul came with 7:01 left, earning Bradley a seat on Philadelphia's bench.

Lacking their 7-foot-6 center, the Sixers came apart defensively. And with Howard (seven first quarter points) and Cheaney (nine in the quarter) stepping up their offensive game, Washington ended the quarter with a 16-9 run. A short jumper by Howard had Washington within 29-24 with 5.7 seconds left, but Maxwell responded with a three-pointer just before the buzzer to give the Sixers, who shot 61.1 percent, a 32-24 lead.

Washington closed to 36-35 with 9:20 left in the half on a three-pointer by rookie Jeff Webster. However the Sixers increased the lead to 50-42 with 3:59 left on a free throw by Clarence Weatherspoon.

Webster, in the opening night line-up because of injuries, scored nine of Washington's last 13 first-half points. He had all 12 of his points in the first half that ended in a tie at 55.

Bullets tonight

Opponent: Detroit Pistons

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 7:30

TV/Radio: HTS/WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: This is the home opener for the Bullets, who opened the season last night by losing to Philadelphia. The Pistons lost to the New York Knicks at home last night. This game matches two teams that were last in their divisions last season. Detroit took three of four from the Bullets last season, splitting two games at USAir Arena. G/F Grant Hill and G Joe Dumars lead the Pistons,

who got added F Otis Thorpe in the off-season.

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