Hornets persist to beat Bullets Washington loses lead, then 9th game in last 10

February 24, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER — C LANDOVER -- It should have been a lesson learned by the Washington Bullets, who lost a 17-point halftime lead and the game on Wednesday against the Hornets in Charlotte, N.C.

But last night the Bullets had the same opponent and the same lead, only to suffer the same result.

Charlotte was a 100-94 victor last night at USAir Arena in a game that left the Bullets 4 1/2 games behind the Hornets, who hold the eighth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Bullets (23-30) lost their third straight and the ninth in their past 10 games. Not only did they lose the game, but they lost their cool. Juwan Howard was escorted to the locker room early after kicking a Gatorade container onto the court after his sixth foul with 2:43 left. Howard finished with 18 points and nine rebounds.

Kenny Anderson scored 22 points and had nine assists, and Larry Johnson scored 18 points on 8-for-9 shooting for the Hornets (27-25), who won their fifth straight game.

The Hornets, who faced an uphill battle all game after falling behind by 17 in the first half, took their first lead in the fourth quarter. Trailing by seven early in the quarter, Charlotte got to within 83-81 on a three-pointer by Dell Curry.

Then Brent Price turned the ball over as he attempted to pass to Howard in the post, and on the other end Glen Rice hit a three-pointer for an 84-83 lead with 7:24 left.

Washington regained the lead, 85-84, on a layup by Calbert Cheaney and the teams were tied at 86 after a free throw by Price.

But Charlotte scored the next six points, taking a 92-86 lead after a jumper by Johnson with under four minutes left. The Bullets would never get closer than four points on the way to the defeat.

Curry scored 21 points and Rice 19 for the Hornets, who have held all of their victims during the streak under 100 points.

Rasheed Wallace had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Bullets. Gheorghe Muresan added 17 points and eight rebounds.

The start of the game was delayed 45 minutes to remove condensation from the court. When the teams finally began to play, the early going looked like a repeat of Wednesday's game in Charlotte when the Bullets had a 17-point halftime lead. Washington again had a 17-point lead in the first half last night, with 3:09 left before intermission. But the Hornets outscored the Bullets 13-4 from there and were within 52-44 at the half.

The Bullets got a big first quarter from Muresan, who scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds. Washington's biggest lead of the first quarter came after a dunk by Muresan with 7:42 left, which gave the Bullets a 13-5 edge.

Charlotte would come back behind the inside play of Johnson, and outside shooting of Curry. Each would score six points during a 14-4 run that, after a jumper by Curry with 3:14 left, tied the game at 19.

Price responded with a three-pointer, and the Bullets scored seven straight points to open a 26-19 advantage after a layup by Cheaney. Johnson would hit two free throws with four seconds left to end the scoring, but the Bullets -- despite getting zero points from Howard -- had a 26-21 lead.

It wasn't shaping up to be a good game for Howard, who picked up his second foul less than a minute into the second quarter and went to the bench.

Still Washington opened the quarter with an 11-4 run, taking a 37-25 lead after Ledell Eackles converted a three-point play with 7:37 left.

Howard returned and during one stretch scored nine straight points for the Bullets, and his two free throws with 3:09 left gave Washington its biggest lead, 48-31.

But five different Charlotte players scored during a 13-4 run, and the Hornets -- who shot 35.6 percent -- were within 52-44 at the half.

Charlotte would close to within 54-52 after a three-pointer by Anderson with 8:51 left. And, after falling behind by as many as seven points, the Hornets were again within two at 62-60 when George Zidek hit a 17-foot jumper.

Washington scored the next seven points and, after two free throws by Howard, had a 69-60 lead. The Hornets again began chipping away at the lead, and had closed to within 73-70 after a layup by Anthony Goldwire with two seconds left.

Just when it seemed like the Hornets would take the momentum swing into the fourth quarter, Mitchell Butler banked in a 60-foot shot at the buzzer and the Bullets had a 76-70 lead going into the final period.

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