Late cold spell by Bullets ices Hornets' win Washington fails to score in final 3: 19 of 101-92 loss

Rice's 38 lead Charlotte

3-game win streak ends in home defeat

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

LANDOVER -- In winning two games over the weekend, the Washington Bullets spoke about paying back the teams that had beat them earlier in the season.

The Bullets still have a chance for revenge against the Charlotte Hornets, but that will have to come when the teams play later in the week.

Charlotte guard Glen Rice saw to that, scoring a season-high 38 points in leading the Hornets to a 101-92 win over the Bullets last night before a crowd of 17,313 at USAir Arena. The loss by the Bullets ended a three-game winning streak and a four-game victory string at home.

The teams will meet again Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Last night, Rice easily won the battle of the shooting guards, outscoring Calbert Cheaney, 38-0. He led the way as all five Charlotte starters reached double figures, with Anthony Mason and Matt Geiger each adding 18 points, Vlade Divac scoring 14 (with 14 rebounds) and Muggsy Bogues scoring 11 and handing off 14 assists.

"I was trying to take over out there," Rice said. "I was very determined not to let this game get way from us."

Juwan Howard scored 23 points and Chris Webber had 22 for the Bullets (15-14).

"Some nights when you make a run it takes so much out of you," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "We had Chris and Juwan out there a lot of minutes. You hate to get beat by one guy, plain and simple. Rice just had a big-time game. You hate to give a guy like that easy baskets, and that's what we did."

After falling behind by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, the Bullets were within 83-75 going into the final period.

At the start of the fourth quarter the Bullets -- spurred by the fresh legs of Harvey Grant and Tracy Murray -- increased their defensive pressure in an effort to get back into the game.

It worked.

Grant hounded the hot-shooting Rice, and the Charlotte guard didn't score for the first 7: 16 of the fourth quarter.

And Grant's intensity was contagious; the Bullets as a team held the Hornets to just one field goal over the first five minutes of the final period.

The Bullets got to within 85-82 after Murray hit a three-pointer with 8: 08 left. And later a Murray dunk -- off a feed from Howard -- gave the Bullets their first lead of the game, 86-85.

Charlotte recovered to take a 92-88 lead after Rice converted a three-point play with 4: 44 left. The Bullets scored the next four points to tie the game at 92, after Webber hit a free throw and Howard converted a three-point play with 3: 19 left.

But the Bullets then got sloppy with the ball and cold from the field. They turned the ball over on their next two possessions and missed their next six shots. Washington did not score over the final three minutes.

"Give Charlotte credit," Howard said. "They hung in there and hit some tough shots down the stretch. They're a team that's well-respected and they did a good job, especially Glen Rice."

Rice, 6 feet 8, scored 18 points in the first half -- two points below his average this season.

Behind Rice, the Hornets led by as many as 14 points in the first half. But Washington, with a big first half from Webber (14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) and Howard (14 points) rallied to pull to within 57-52.

At the start of the first quarter, the Bullets could do little right going against a Charlotte team that was big across the front line (Geiger and Divac both stand 7 feet 1 and Mason is 6-8), and quick in the backcourt with Bogues. Washington didn't score from the field until a hook shot in the lane by Webber with 7: 17 left in the first period, pulling the Bullets to within 8-4.

The Hornets, taking advantage of second shot opportunities, scored the next eight points. And when Divac drove the lane for an uncontested dunk with 5: 47 left the Hornets had a 16-4 lead.

Washington recovered from their early shooting woes and connected on its next four shots. When Webber scored on a baseline jumper with 4: 00 left the Bullets had closed to 19-12. Charlotte would open its lead to 28-14 after Rice hit a three-pointer with 1: 24 left.

On the verge of being blown out early, the Bullets rallied to score the final seven points of the quarter. And after Jaren Jackson made a three-pointer just before the buzzer, the Bullets had pulled to within 28-21.

Early in the second quarter, Webber was a monster on the boards, grabbing three rebounds in the first three minutes. But it didn't help the Bullets, who were behind, 38-25, after Mason converted a three-point play with 8: 47 left.

"They broke out backs over the first 14 minutes. I don't think you could say that fatigue was a factor," Webber said. "I feel like I can play with a lot of adrenalin. They're a good team -- Glen Rice is a great player. They made some big baskets -- Vlade and Mason were tough. And Muggsy is still incredible, still the quickest guard in the league."

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