Bullets' surge bounces Bucks, 95-90 Washington wins 2 in row for first time this season

November 24, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

MILWAUKEE -- There may be a time when the Washington Bullets reach those NBA expectations that many have predicted for them. If they do, the Bullets may point to last night as the game that turned their season around.

Sparked by a fourth-quarter lineup that included four reserves, the Bullets came through with their biggest defensive stretch of the season. That pressure helped the Bullets run off 15 straight points during a span of 3 1/2 minutes and sparked a 95-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks before 16,508 at the Bradley Center.

In winning, the Bullets put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season and reached the .500 level (6-6). More importantly, the Bullets came back from a game that was bTC seemingly lost.

"There was a lot of heart, effort and mental toughness out there," Juwan Howard said. "Things are coming together."

A quick glance at the box score may indicate that Howard (23 points, eight rebounds), Chris Webber (20 points, 15 rebounds) and Rod Strickland (15 points, eight assists) were the heroes. But only Howard was on the floor when the comeback began.

Howard teamed with Jaren Jackson, Chris Whitney, Tracy Murray and Gheorghe Muresan at the start of the fourth period. Those five turned a walk-it-up-the-court game into chaos, helping the Bullets force six turnovers during a 15-0 run.

Not only did the Bucks turn the ball over (eight turnovers in the fourth quarter, leading to 10 Washington points), but they also couldn't get the ball past half-court. Five different Bullets scored during the run and, after two free throws by Muresan with 6: 24 left, what had been a 12-point deficit was suddenly an 83-80 lead.

"We tried to get after them with our pressure and it just caught them by surprise," said Whitney, who in six fourth-quarter minutes had four of Washington's eight fourth-quarter steals. "We started to get a lot of easy baskets that we weren't getting early in the game. Coach [Jim Lynam] calls them flurries, when you get rolling like that."

Still, there was a lot of basketball to be played. The Bucks responded with a 7-1 run of their own, taking an 87-84 lead after a hook shot in the lane by Armon Gilliam with 4: 09 left.

But the Bullets seemed determined not to let the game get out of reach. A jumper by Strickland pulled the Bullets to within one, and Webber followed with a hook for an 88-87 lead with 1: 45 left.

The sequence demonstrating the team's determination came on Washington's next possession. Howard missed a shot, and Calbert Cheaney grabbed the offensive rebound. After another miss, Howard grabbed the offensive board. The Bullets then worked the clock and then the ball to Howard, whose short hook in the lane seemingly hit every part of the rim before bouncing in with 40 seconds left. With that shot, the win was secure.

"I've been with Golden State and I remember being in games we were down 20 points, and coming back and winning," Webber said. "I think we're better. And that's what happens some nights; you come back and get the win. We can't let it be 12 down in the fourth quarter every time. But, if need be, we have to try to come back and win the game."

NOTES: The Bullets committed just eight turnovers. Washington forced 17 turnovers, resulting in 21 points. Glenn Robinson led the Bucks with 33 points. Vin Baker, who had missed three

games with a hip injury, had 16 rebounds and 17 points, but just one point in 12 fourth-quarter minutes. Muresan starred in the late going despite a bout with flu.

Pub Date: 11/24/96

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