Bullets bull by Blazers, 106-84 Howard and Webber dominate inside, end trip on winning note

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

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Washington Bullets learned from their mistakes, and salvaged one of their most successful West Coast trips in years.

Twenty-four hours after blowing an 11-point halftime lead against one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Bullets increased an 11-point halftime lead to 28 and cruised to a 106-84 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers last night at The Rose Garden.

"Our defense was as good as it's been all year," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "We like to think good teams bounce back.

"We did a good job taking away Portland's strengths."

Juwan Howard got the Bullets on the right track early, scoring 25 of his game-high 27 points in the first half. Chris Webber did most of his damage in the second half, finishing with 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Throw in Rod Strickland's successful return to Portland -- 17 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds -- and the Bullets were able to finish their six-game West swing with a 4-2 record. Tracy Murray, another former Blazer, added a season-high 18 points.

The Bullets rebounded from a disappointing loss at Vancouver on Sunday, when the Grizzlies overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to win.

"We didn't relax with our lead tonight like we did against Vancouver," Howard said. "We had to put that behind us. I think we wanted this game more than ever.

"I feel good about our road trip, but would like to have been 6-0."

The Bullets (13-13) had been careless in maintaining big leads lately. But last night Washington came out with a competitive fire in the third quarter to increase their 11-point halftime lead to as many as 28 in the fourth, clearing the way for reserves Matt Fish and Ben Wallace to see their first action in some time.

"Tonight was as good as it's been for 48 minutes," Lynam said. "We minimized our lulls in this game, and that's been one of our big problems."

The trip's final game showcased some of the best basketball Howard has played all season.

He hit 12 of 13 shots in the first half. His only miss was a short jumper in the first minute of the second quarter.

Howard's first shot of the game was a baseline jumper over Clifford Robinson, after which he ran in front of the Bullets bench and shouted, "All night." He was a perfect 6-for-6 in the opening quarter.

"Juwan was on fire tonight," Webber said. "You just have to keep feeding him. I guess I put more pressure on him to score, and it was good to see him have a great game."

The Bullets fell behind 9-2 to start the game after Arvydas Sabonis scored on a three-pointer with 9: 32 left in the first quarter. The 7-foot-3 Sabonis hit two three-pointers in the period, and finished with 23 points.

But that would prove to be Portland's biggest lead of the half.

The Bullets got back into the game behind hot shooting (66.7 percent in the first quarter). Webber scored eight first-quarter points -- on four dunks.

The Bullets won their third consecutive game against the Blazers, something they hadn't done since the 1986-87 season.

And the 22-point margin of victory was their largest in Portland, breaking the mark of 21 set in 1995.

Former Bullets forward Rasheed Wallace hurt his right thumb in the first half and did not return. Wallace had surgery on that thumb last season.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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