Bullets capitalize in overtime, 120-115 Finish off Jazz on shot by Howard, Muresan block

March 17, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - Two minutes remained in overtime, and even a few of the die-hard fans of the Washington Bullets were leaving in disgust. After failing to beat the Utah Jazz in regulation, the Bullets found themselves trailing by five points.

Those who left missed a night of March Madness, NBA style, as the Bullets scored the final 10 points on the way to a huge 120-115 win before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at USAir Arena.

Now that they've won their sixth game in eight outings, you no longer can call these Bullets the "20-somethings." For the first time since the 1990-91 season, the Bullets have reached the 30-win mark (30-35).

The Bullets beat a team that has dominated them in recent years, as Utah had won six straight meetings and 16 of the previous 17 going into last night.

"Was that entertaining, or what?" said Washington coach Jim Lynam. "I thought the game showed a lot about the character of this team."

Character in the form of a game-high 28 points and 15 rebounds from Gheorghe Muresan, who gutted out a career-high 48 minutes and provided a key defensive play in overtime. In the form of Juwan Howard, who had 26 points and hit a key basket in overtime. In the form of Rasheed Wallace, who before fouling out scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds and provided a second-half lift.

And in the form of Brent Price, who out-dueled one of the top point guards in the league with a 23-point, 10-assist and &L one-turnover performance against John Stockton.

All those efforts appeared to be in vain with 2: 02 left in overtime after Greg Ostertag scored on a dunk that gave the Jazz a 115-110 lead that had some fans headed for the exits.

But who could have figured that a team with one of the best one-two punches in Stockton (19 points, seven assists) and Karl Malone (32 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) would go scoreless the rest of the way.

But that's what happened. The Bullets tied the game at 115 on a free throw by Price, and took a 116-115 lead after a free throw by Muresan with 50 seconds left.

The Jazz had a chance to reclaim the lead, but Antoine Carr's layup attempt was blocked by Muresan (five blocks). The Bullets controlled the rebound, and Howard hit a jumper over Malone with 15 seconds left for a 118-115 lead.

Needing a three to tie, Utah got the ball into the hands of Stockton, who was bumped by Tim Legler before he lofted an attempt. The shot went in and the Jazz thought it had a potentially game-winning four-point play. But the official ruled that the foul came before the shot, a call that appeared to be backed by replays.

"They were obviously trying to foul, we knew they were trying to foul, and I had a shot and finished it," Stockton said. "Piece of cake call."

Legler disagreed.

"I just kept hitting him and hitting him. I fouled him long before the whistle blew," Legler said. "When he made the shot, I was praying. The ref didn't blow the whistle until much later."

Because the basket was waved off, the Bullets were able to win their second game over a top team in the Western Conference in the past two weeks. On March 6 the Bullets defeated Seattle, the top team in the West. Utah (44-20) has the third best record.

The win marked the latest of impressive efforts from Wallace, who provided a spark when the Bullets needed it most. Starting the fourth quarter with four fouls and with Howard on the bench, Wallace scored 10 points during a 16-6 run that turned a seven-point deficit into a 92-89 lead after his jumper with 7: 03 left in the fourth.

"I had to just pick it up where [Juwan] left off," Wallace said. "I just wanted to go in and give the team a little bit of energy. It was a big win for us, and let everyone know that we're still fighting for that playoff spot."

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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