Knicks' late hit beats Bullets 5 missed free throws set stage for Harper's 3-point winner, 110-109

November 11, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- As Mitchell Butler lay sprawled on the court, unable to get his final attempt off at the buzzer, Washington Bullets forward Juwan Howard and coach Jim Lynam rushed toward the two officials to argue their non-call.

Did Butler get fouled? Maybe. But to find blame for last night's loss to the New York Knicks, one had to look no farther than the Washington locker room.

The Bullets shot the ball better and dominated the boards. But in the final minute Washington missed five free throws -- including four by Howard -- giving Derek Harper a chance to hit a three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left for a 110-109 Knicks victory before a sellout of 18,756 at USAir Arena.

The Knicks have won 14 straight games against the Bullets, many of the games mostly one-sided. Last night the Bullets had the Knicks pinned, and the veteran team got up and buried them. Harper's shot -- a deep three-pointer over the outstretched hands of Robert Pack -- gave New York its first lead since the first quarter.

Howard shouldered most of the blame afterward. He missed two free throws with a minute left and the Bullets leading 108-105. With Washington clinging to a 108-107 lead with 16.4 seconds left, Howard got another chance. And missed two more.

"Had I hit the four free throws, we win," Howard said. "These are the type of situations I love to be in, but tonight I didn't capitalize."

Even after the second pair of misses, the Bullets were in good shape after Calbert Cheaney stepped into the passing lane and picked off Anthony Mason's pass intended for John Starks. Cheaney was fouled with 6.7 seconds left, but he made just one of two free throws.

That set up the heroics of Harper, who fired his shot with Pack playing a little off him.

Pack said he was shocked by the shot.

"He went out and was behind the old three-point line," Pack said. "I wanted him to put the ball on the ground, and he just caught it and pulled up. It was a great shot by a veteran player."

There was a little improvisation by Harper, who decided to take advantage of the space between himself and Pack.

"I broke the play," Harper said. "I was open because I was farther out than usual. Robert was going to force me to shoot, and I did."

The Bullets called timeout and tried to set up a three-pointer for Butler. But he was tied up by Ewing at the buzzer, and the Knicks had the victory.

The Bullets, who led by as many as 13 points in the second half, shot an impressive 58.9 percent and out-rebounded New York, 50-42. But over the final 12 minutes the Bullets scored just 15 points, and only a single point in the final three minutes.

"Our inexperience showed a little bit," Lynam said of the fourth quarter. "Give the Knicks credit, they were the experienced team at the end."

The loss wasted a fine all-around game by the Bullets, who had six players in double figures.

Cheaney led the way with 22 points. Howard had 20 points and six rebounds, Gheorghe Muresan 15 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes, and Pack 12 points, 12 assists and just one turnover.

Cheaney hit seven of 11 shots but only scored four points after halftime because of foul trouble.

"There were a couple of fouls that should not have been fouls," a dejected Cheaney said. "It's a tough loss because for the most part it was an excellent game. We did what we wanted to do pretty much against them."

And still the streak continued, something that the Washington players are fully aware of.

"Yeah, we're aware of the streak," Cheaney said. "We'll just continue to play hard whether it's against the Knicks or anyone else. The great thing about this team is that we're competitive."

But in the end they were losers, for the first time on their home court after two wins here.

Howard knew his missed shots were a huge reason for the dejection in the locker room. Time after time he has hit big shots for the Bullets. But he couldn't put down the free throws last night.

"I would definitely want to get in that situation again, to prove I can win games like that," Howard said. "I let my team down, I let the fans down, I let my family down. Hopefully, I'll get a chance like that again."

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