Bullets make run, but fall to Nuggets Seventh straight road loss comes in final seconds

February 06, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

DENVER -- After all the turmoil of the day on which Jim Lynam was dismissed as coach, the Washington Bullets still had to play a basketball game last night. And, after two straight embarrassing losses, they finally found themselves in a game they had a chance to win.

But the Bullets were denied the victory because of late-game heroics by Dale Ellis, whose jumper from the foul line with 11 seconds left gave the Denver Nuggets the lead for good in a 108-104 victory at McNichols Arena.

It was the fourth straight loss for the Bullets, who went winless on the four-game trip leading up to the All-Star break and have now dropped 10 of their last 13 games overall. It was also the team's seventh straight loss on the road.

Prior to the jumper by Ellis, the Bullets tied the game at 104 on a banker by Rod Strickland (28 points, 10 assists) with 29 seconds left. Even after Ellis gave the Nuggets the lead, Washington had a chance to tie on its final possession.

But a shot by Harvey Grant from just inside the three-point line was blocked by Denver center Ervin Johnson and Mark Jackson scored on a layup in the final seconds, leaving the Bullets frustrated once more.

After an extremely hectic day that featured mixed emotions over the firing of Lynam and the announcement that Chris Webber was named to the All-Star team, the Bullets had to face the Nuggets without Webber, who sat out with a sprained left ankle suffered in the first half of Monday's loss at Utah.

At least the Bullets didn't play as poorly in the first half last night as they did in the first periods of their previous two games -- they trailed by 26 points at intermission to the Lakers and 30 points at the half to the Jazz.

Washington actually had a lead in the first half last night, and was down 59-52 at halftime.

Perhaps the day's events contributed to the slow start by the Bullets, who found themselves trailing 17-6 after Ricky Pierce's layup with 7: 48 left in the first. But instead of collapsing as they did in their previous two games, they fought back.

Juwan Howard led the way with six points during a 14-2 run. And when he ended it with a jumper with 2: 53 left, the Bullets had a 20-19 lead.

But the Nuggets came back, and, behind nine points from Pierce and seven assists by Mark Jackson, assumed a 27-22 advantage.

In the second quarter, the Bullets led by four after a three-pointer by Tracy Murray with just under seven minutes left. But just that quickly the Bullets were again facing a double-digit deficit, falling behind 55-45 after Pierce hit two free throws with 2: 16 remaining.

Pierce led all scorers in the first half with 17 points, hitting six of his seven shots. The Nuggets shot 52.3 percent in the half.

In the third period, the Bullets were able to get as close as 61-60 after the second of two straight three-pointers by Jaren Jackson with 9: 50 left.

But defensive lapses proved costly, as the Nuggets converted wide-open layups, tip-ins and uncontested jumpers.

Ellis did much of his damage for Denver over the final 5: 17 of the third quarter when he scored 10 points. And when Kenny Smith picked up a loose ball and hit a three-pointer with six seconds left, the Nuggets had an 89-78 lead going into the final quarter.

Pub Date: 2/06/97

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