Price, Bullets get back on track, edging 76ers All-Star makes debut, Wallace scores 22 to halt losing run, 98-93

January 11, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- His coach didn't think he'd be back so soon. His Washington Bullets teammates didn't think so. And neither did Mark Price.

But when Price found out yesterday that teammate Robert Pack would be unable to go because of a sore right knee, he figured last night was the time to make his Washington debut.

"I thought it would be nice for the team, spirit-wise," said Price, sidelined the entire season after surgery on his left heel. "I knew I wasn't going to be [100 percent]."

He was right, as he hit just two of 11 shots. But the four-time All-Star hit a key three-pointer with 90 seconds left that helped the Bullets overcome the Philadelphia 76ers, 98-93, before 7,340 at the Spectrum.

The win ended a two-game losing streak for the Bullets (17-16), whose front-line dominance might have had Sixers fans shouting "bring back Shawn Bradley."

Rasheed Wallace, playing in his hometown, had 22 points and 10 rebounds -- both career highs. Gheorghe Muresan came one block shy of a triple double, with 14 points, 18 rebounds (career high) and nine blocks (tie career high). And Juwan Howard had 21 points and nine rebounds.

Yes, at a time where the Bullets were short-handed and struggling, the Sixers -- losers of eight of the last nine -- were just what the doctor ordered.

And just what Price ordered, going against a team that has yet to settle its point guard problems. Bullets coach Jim Lynam was as [See Bullets, 5C] surprised as anyone when Price told him he wanted to play. "I had no idea, it was a bit of a surprise," Lynam said.

It was clear the Bullets will have to get used to the bullet passes of Price, who just had his first extended full-contact practice with the team Monday. And while his shooting was clearly off, Lynam doesn't expect a problem.

"Just give him a little time," Lynam said. "With a game or two under his belt, he'll show he's one of the top guards."

Price made his debut with 5:07 left in the first quarter, with the Bullets leading by two. He hit his first shot -- a 20-foot jumper.

His second five-minute stretch was less successful. The Bullets had built their biggest lead of the game, 50-34, nearly seven minutes into the second quarter with little brother Brent Price running the offense. Mark Price came in with 4:39 left, and was on the court for most of the 12-2 half-ending run that had the Sixers within 53-48.

The Sixers took the lead, 71-70, at the end of the third quarter after a three-pointer by Vernon Maxwell (21 points) and had a 79-76 lead in the fourth.

But Wallace hit a three-pointer to tie the game, and then hit two free throws for an 81-79 lead. Price's key three-pointer made it 94-87 and the Bullets held on.

Wallace had totaled 10 points over his last two games, and has so far failed to play up to the potential projected of him as the fourth pick of the draft. But last night, Wallace gave the Philadelphia fans a glimpse of his potential.

"Last time I was here [Nov. 3], I didn't do too well, and I had to redeem myself," Wallace said.

With Chris Webber (strained left shoulder) missing his sixth straight game, Lynam needed a strong Wallace outing.

"Sheed did a really good job," Lynam said. "We need some guys to pick things up."

Which is one of the reasons why Price decided to play. "I wanted to come in and help the team get a win," said Price, icing his foot. "The foot's a little sore. But I was pleased with the way things went, with the flow of the game."

NOTE: The league will announce today that Tim Legler will be a participant in the three-point shootout during All-Star weekend in San Antonio. "I'm excited and honored to be in such a group," Legler said. "It's going to be a hectic weekend. The shootout is on Saturday, and my wife is due on Friday."

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