Bullets capitalize in OT, 120-115 Howard shot, Muresan block finish off Jazz

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

LANDOVER - When you're the 11th team in a playoff race in which eight teams make it, moral victories at this time of year are meaningless.

So, the Washington Bullets weren't happy just to be in overtime against the Utah Jazz last night. They wanted to capitalize on a big opportunity.

The Bullets did just that, getting a key shot by Juwan Howard and a huge defensive play by Gheorghe Muresan in the closing seconds of overtime on the way to a 120-115 win before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at USAir Arena.

It was a team effort by the Bullets, who had lost six straight and 16 of their previous 17 to the Jazz going into last night. All five starters scored in double figures, with Muresan's 28 points and Howard's 26 leading the way.

After failing on their chances to win the game in regulation, the Bullets found themselves trailing 115-110 with 2: 02 left in overtime after a dunk by Greg Ostertag. But the Jazz was shut out the rest of the way.

Washington tied the game at 115 after a free throw by Brent Price (23 points), and took a 116-115 lead after a free throw by Muresan with 50 seconds left.

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

Utah needed a three to tie and got the ball into the hands of John Stockton (19 points, seven assists), 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 was backed up by replays.

The Bullets were able to steal a huge win.

When the two teams met last, the Jazz pretty much had its way with the Bullets, winning 115-93 in Salt Lake City on Feb. 28. But perhaps fatigue was a factor last night, because the Jazz was playing its fifth game in a six-game road trip.

In an extremely physical first half, the Jazz got 12 points from Malone while taking a 51-48 lead.

While Malone was effective in his 18 first-half minutes, the most ,, dominant player on the floor was Muresan, who had 17 points and six rebounds as the Jazz tried numerous players in an attempt to stop him.

The Jazz jumped out early, taking an 18-13 lead after a three-pointer by David Benoit halfway through the first quarter. But the Bullets stormed back, scoring the next 11 points. Howard and Muresan each scored four points during the run, and after Muresan's hook shot with 2: 45 left the Bullets had their biggest lead of the half, 24-18.

Then things began to get a little testy on the court. Howard, on two straight shot attempts, felt he got raked on the hand by Malone as the ball was stripped from him. After the second one, Malone grabbed the ball near the Jazz bench and Howard shoved him to the floor. Howard was called for a flagrant foul.

Malone hit one of two free throws, and the Jazz scored five straight points to pull within 24-23. After a layup by Calbert Cheaney with 56 seconds left increased the Washington lead to 26-23, Malone with 10 points in the first scored on a dunk to pull the Jazz within 26-25 at the end of the quarter.

The teams played an even second quarter, in which the lead changed 10 times and neither team led by more than three points. Washington's biggest lead of the quarter was two points, coming after a jumper by Howard with 5: 05 left gave the Bullets a 40-38 lead.

Muresan was the biggest weapon for the Bullets in the quarter, when he scored 11 points and hit all three of his field goal attempts. Muresan scored the final three points of the quarter for the Bullets, with his free throw with 1: 03 left tying the game at 48.

Pub Date: 3/17/96

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