Bullets have enough in reserve, top Celtics Muresan, Whitney spark 4th-quarter comeback en route to 106-92 win

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

LANDOVER -- A quick glance at last night's Washington-Boston box score might lead some to believe that the Bullets played well. Five players scored in double figures, the team shot better than 50 percent and Chris Webber flirted with a triple double.

The reality is that the Bullets won because they played the Celtics, who could do little right in the fourth quarter.

After leading by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, the Celtics went flat in the fourth. The Bullets outscored the Celtics 29-10, and Boston was scoreless over the final 6: 06.

That was enough of a collapse to give the Bullets an uneasy 106-92 win before a sellout crowd at USAir Arena.

Webber had 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Rod Strickland and Juwan Howard each scored 19. But the most encouraging contribution came from center Gheorghe Muresan, who played 26 minutes. He scored 12 and had eight rebounds in his fourth game since returning from the injured list with a hip problem.

With reserve guard Chris Whitney also playing a key role, the Bullets roared back in the fourth quarter to stop a two-game losing streak.

"We've played better some nights, and we lost," Webber said, not getting overly excited about the win that made the Bullets 4-5. "We played well at times. We turned it up defensively, and that was the difference."

The Bullets hardly played any defense in the third quarter, when a five-point halftime lead turned into a 12-point deficit early in the period. The Celtics hit 14 of 20 shots in the third quarter, with the front line of Dino Radja, Eric Williams and Antoine Walker combining to score 28.

"[Coach Jim Lynam] was really on us. He wasn't too happy with our third-quarter performance," Webber said. "We just needed to listen to the coach."

And that's what happened. Muresan clogged the middle as the Boston front line, unstoppable in the third, scored one point in the final quarter.

Lynam countered the Celtics' quick guards (Dana Barros and David Wesley) with Strickland and Whitney, who replaced the 6-foot-7 Calbert Cheaney. Strickland and Whitney scored six points each in the final quarter.

"That's the type of game they like to play [with a small lineup] and we countered," said Whitney, who scored 11. "That's the first time I was out there at the end of a game, and it felt good."

The win was the lift the Bullets needed, although they did hear the boos again from the crowd as they fell behind in the third quarter. Some hot shooting (51.8 percent) helped quiet the fans.

Still, of Washington's four wins, three have come against teams that have combined for four victories.

Pub Date: 11/17/96

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