Pistons stop Howard, finish off Bullets, 90-82 He misses double digits for first time this season

January 07, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Washington Bullets coach Jim Lynam was asked what he does when his steadiest player, Juwan Howard, is having a bad night. Lynam's response was to put his right hand just above his brow, glancing in the distance as if in search of some hidden treasure.

After scoring in double figures in every game this season, Howard finally had a bad one last night, scoring just six points. And as Howard goes so go the Bullets, who fell behind by as many as 28 points in losing, 90-82, to the Detroit Pistons before 21,454 at the Palace.

The loss was the fourth in the past five road games for the Bullets (16-15), who started a three-game road trip last night. Robert Pack and Ledell Eackles each scored 14 to lead the Bullets, and Grant Hill and Allan Houston had 25 each for the Pistons.

Double-teamed aggressively every time he touched the ball, Howard wound up hitting just two of 15 shots. In five games going into last night, Howard was averaging 22.4 points and 8.4 rebounds. He did have nine rebounds and five assists, but the six points ended a string of 30 games this season where he scored in double digits.

"Sometimes you have nights like that in this league," Howard said. "But you can't sulk. You have to come out the next day and play your best."

Lynam was not the least bit upset with Howard, who, in the absence of Chris Webber (strained left shoulder) and Calbert Cheaney (sore right leg), has carried the team. Howard was averaging more than 41 minutes a game going into last night and even against the Pistons, with the game seemingly out of reach in the third quarter, he logged 39 minutes.

"Juwan has been so good, it's a joke," Lynam said. "As a coach, I'd like to have as few off-nights as he has had."

The Bullets entered the game as the best shooting team in the league; the Pistons had allowed the second-fewest points. Something had to bend and it turned out to be Washington's shooting, as the Bullets shot 41.9 percent for the game. The game was nowhere near as close as the final score.

The Bullets were flat from the start, and were seemingly buried in the third quarter when they were outscored 30-11 and fell behind by 28. The Bullets hit just five of 18 shots in the quarter (27.7 percent) and scored just one field goal over the first eight minutes.

The team was no better from the free-throw line in the quarter, hitting three of 12. As a team, the Bullets were 11 of 26 from the line, with Rasheed Wallace (three points in 22 minutes) hitting just three of eight.

"From start to finish, the whole game did us in," Lynam said. "As a team, we didn't play well. We just weren't mentally into the game."

Pack, who had six turnovers, got an extended seat on the bench from Lynam. Pack had 14 points in the first quarter, but had just one assist as the Bullets fell behind by 10. He was pulled from the game with 6:31 left in the third quarter and Washington trailing by 16. He never returned, even after the Bullets cut the lead to 13 with just under five minutes left.

"I have no idea why I didn't get back in; you'll have to ask Coach that," Pack said. "I felt like I was playing well. I had some turnovers, but I have to be able to play through that. I couldn't understand not getting back into the game."

Asked about Pack, Lynam said, "He was scoring all right. It wasn't just Robert; we just didn't do a good job taking care of the ball."

Detroit was up 79-52 going into the final quarter. Then the Bullets made their run, with Eackles hitting three of his four three-pointers over the first three minutes.

Washington got within 85-72 after Tim Legler scored on a layup with 4:47 left. That's when Detroit coach Doug Collins put his starters back in the game, something he didn't want to do.

"That was a disgrace the way we finished the game and because of it Grant Hill has a tight back and I have to play him 41 minutes," Collins said.

Lynam hopes it's something that doesn't happen too often, not with the injury problems the Bullets are facing. Eackles started the game, but is suffering from the flu. Webber and Mark Price could be back by the end of next week.

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