Whitney, Muresan give Bullets spark Reserves lead comeback in 4th quarter, 106-92

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

LANDOVER -- It wasn't pretty, especially considering that the Washington Bullets were playing the Boston Celtics -- no longer an NBA powerhouse. But when a team is struggling, it will take a victory. Any victory.

Chris Webber nearly had a triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists) and four more teammates scored in double figures, as the Bullets defeated the Celtics, 106-92. The Bullets ended a two-game losing streak before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at USAir Arena.

Webber had help. Juwan Howard had 19 points and nine rebounds, and Rod Strickland had 19 points and seven assists. But the most encouraging sign was the play of Gheorghe Muresan. In his fourth game back from a hip flexor injury, he had 12 points and eight rebounds in 26 minutes as a reserve.

The Bullets are 4-5. The Celtics, winless on the road, are 2-6.

After playing lethargically for three quarters, and trailing 82-77as the fourth began, the Bullets responded with their best stretch since Muresan returned. They outscored the Celtics 29-10 in the fourth quarter.

Coach Jim Lynam had Muresan clogging the middle and replaced Calbert Cheaney with Chris Whitney as the Bullets roared back. Whitney and Strickland allowed the Bullets to match the quickness of the Celtics' tandem of Dana Barros and David Wesley.

When Whitney scored on a layup with 6: 57 remaining, it gave the Bullets the lead to keep, 91-89. Whitney then converted a three-point play.

The Bullets were looking to end a two-game home skid, but they didn't play like it for stretches of the first half.

They awoke at the end of the second quarter. With Howard scoring 13 points and Webber 10, the Bullets took a 53-48 halftime lead. They shot 51.5 percent in the half.

The Bullets were coming off of a loss in Detroit on Friday night, and the Celtics took advantage of Washington's sluggishness by grabbing a 12-6 lead on a layup by Eric Williams less than four minutes into the game. The Bullets responded with six straight points, the final two on a jumper by Howard, in less than a minute.

But the Bullets again turned cold, missing their next five shots. During that span of misses, the Celtics took advantage to claim their biggest first-half lead, 20-13, with 4: 41 remaining.

Muresan, who did not start, made a quick impact by scoring on a short jumper over Dino Radja. From there, the Bullets slowly climbed back, pulling to within 24-23 at the end of the quarter despite missing their final three shots.

A 14-7 run to open the second quarter put the Bullets ahead, 37-31. Six different players scored and Webber's free-throw line jumper put the finishing touches on the run.

The Bullets' marksmanship returned. They hit 12 of 21 shots (57.1 percent) in the quarter, mainly because of a successful return of their fast break. At halftime, they led 53-48.

But that lead was short-lived. The Bullets resorted to shooting -- and missing -- jump shots in the third period (eight of 20 from the field in the third quarter).

The Celtics got an impressive effort from their front line as they climbed back into the game.

Williams, Radja and rookie Antoine Walker combined to score 28 in the quarter. Radja scored eight during a 10-2 run that, after he scored on a layup, gave Boston a 61-57 lead with 8: 05 remaining.

A short jumper by Calbert Cheaney ended the run, pulling the VTC Bullets within 61-59. But Boston came back with a 14-4 run, this one sparked by Walker, who scored eight in the run -- including the final six. A jumper by Walker with 3: 35 left gave the Celtics their biggest lead to that point, 75-63.

Only the Bullets' unusual success from the free-throw line in the closing minutes (they were shooting 66 percent before the game began) saved them from a blowout. The Bullets hit their final six free throws to pull within 82-77 at the end of third.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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