Bullets escape with win over lowly 76ers, 107-105 Legler's game-winner keeps playoff hopes alive

March 31, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- It was a game that separates playoff contenders from playoff pretenders. That's because the contenders feast on a team like the Philadelphia 76ers, who came into last night's game with a rag-tag group of players that had been horrible on the road and had the second-worst record in the NBA.

It was closer than they would have liked, but the Bullets managed to keep their slim and fading playoff hopes alive as they came back from a fourth-quarter deficit for a 107-105 victory last night over the Sixers.

The victory came on a shot by Tim Legler -- and it wasn't a three-pointer. With the number one offensive option, Juwan Howard, having fouled out with 34 seconds left it was Legler who drove the lane and lofted an arcing lay-up with four seconds left that gave the Bullets a 107-105 lead, and the game.

A potential game-winning, three-point attempt by Vernon Maxwell with two seconds left was off the mark, and the Bullets escaped with the win.

Howard, before fouling out, scored 32 points to match his career-high. Clarence Weatherspoon and Maxwell each scored 23 points to lead the Sixers.

The Bullets had trailed by as many as six points early in the fourth quarter. And with 5: 32 left two free throws by Jerry Stackhouse gave the Sixers a 99-94 lead.

Washington came back to tie the game at 101 after a three-pointer by Legler with 2: 29 left, and the two teams went back and forth from there. A goal credited to Stackhouse on a goal-tending call with 23 seconds left tied the game at 105, setting up Legler's late heroics.

Even though the Sixers had won just one game in their previous 10 going into last night, and had just a single victory in the second game of back-to-backs, they had three players score in double figures in the first half and had a 53-50 lead.

The Bullets' strategy early was to get the ball to Gheorghe Muresan. And Muresan, who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds, scored on two dunks and a lay-up in the first four minutes of the game. His inside play helped the Bullets to a 16-8 lead, coming after a lay-up by Brent Price with 7: 19 left in the quarter.

Washington would later increase the lead to 11 points, that coming with 2: 25 left after a jumper by Howard made it 31-20. The Sixers ended the quarter with a 6-1 run -- with former Maryland forward Tony Massenburg scoring four of the points.

Maxwell began to heat up for the Sixers in the second quarter, and the last of his three straight baskets tied the game at 38 with 7: 05 left.

When Trevor Ruffin hit a jumper with 4: 04 left, the Sixers had their biggest lead of the half at 46-40.

It was a lead that held up the rest of the half, although the Bullets were able to pull within 51-50 after a jumper by Ledell Eackles with 1: 45 left. A dunk by Clarence Weatherspoon, who had 23 points, with less than a second left gave the Sixers -- who shot 61.0 percent -- a 53-50 half-time lead.

The Bullets didn't do so bad shooting in the half, hitting 57.5 percent. Howard scored 16 points, hitting eight of 10 shots. But the Bullets' defensive effort in the first half could be best described as lackluster, and that continued for part of the third quarter.

After the Bullets had taken a 62-57 lead early in the quarter on a dunk by Muresan, the Sixers answered with an 11-2 run. And after two free throws by Stackhouse, the Sixers had a 68-64 lead.

The Sixers led by four with 2: 28 left in the quarter after a lay-up by Maxwell made it 75-71. Washington eventually regained the lead, 78-77, after a free throw by Jim McIlvaine with 12 seconds left. But Stackhouse scored on a lay-up with two seconds left, giving the Sixers a 79-78 lead going into the final quarter.

NOTES: The Bullets announced an increase in ticket prices for next season. Seats that are $37 this season will increase to $50; $33 seats will increase to $40; $25 seats will be $30; $18 seats go to $22, and $11 seats will be $12.

Pub Date: 3/31/96

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