Legler hurt as Nets get even Guard reinjures knee as Bullets change roles in New Jersey sequel, 107-86

February 16, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- On the previous night they had put together their best offensive game of the season in a rout of the New Jersey Nets, and there were thoughts that maybe the Washington Bullets just might be able to accomplish a turnaround under new coach Bernie Bickerstaff.

But something got lost in the 200 miles between the Baltimore Arena and Meadowlands Arena.

The same teams played in the second part of a back-to-back series, and the results were drastically different. After scoring a season-high 125 points on Friday, the Bullets couldn't find the basket last night en route to a 107-86 loss to the Nets that could be more costly than the final score.

Tim Legler injured his right knee in the first half last night, the same knee in which he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament last April. This time the injury was diagnosed as a strained posterior capsule of the right knee (no ligament damage). Legler, playing just his third game of the season, will have the knee looked at today and it's unclear when he will return.

And that left the Bullets short-handed by two players, with Chris Webber missing his second game last night with a strained back. Whether that played a role in the loss is unclear, although the Bullets have had little luck on the road, losing their eighth straight away from home and their ninth road loss in the last 10.

Khalid Reeves had 23 points and Kendall Gill 22 as New Jersey (15-35) avenged the previous night's defeat. Shawn Bradley and Kerry Kittles added 14 points apiece and Jayson Williams had 15 rebounds as the Nets ended a two-game losing streak.

Rod Strickland had 18 points and Juwan Howard 17 as the Bullets (23-27) lost for the second time in three games under Bickerstaff.

In amassing their highest point total of the season in Friday's win, the Bullets were successful in keeping the Nets off the boards (49-37 advantage).

But the Nets had 33 rebounds in the first half alone last night, with 15 coming on the offensive end, as they took a 47-40 halftime lead.

Williams, who entered the game ranked second in the league in rebounding, grabbed 13 boards alone in the first half. And Tony Massenburg, a former standout at Maryland, had eight first-half rebounds in 11 minutes.

Each had six offensive rebounds in the half -- the Bullets as a team had six.

It wasn't a well-played first quarter for the Bullets, who hit just 38.5 percent from the field. Calbert Cheaney, who played well in Friday's game, had to sit with 5: 34 left in the first quarter after picking up his second foul. He finished with 13 points, after scoring 22 Friday night.

When Cheaney sat, the Bullets were tied at 11. They would fall behind by as many as eight, 25-17, after two free throws by Gill (eight points in the quarter) with 1: 35 left. Washington scored the final six points of the quarter to pull within 25-23.

And the problems continued in the second quarter, when the Bullets were unable to get closer than four points.

LTC Gheorghe Muresan showed some signs of getting involved offensively when he hit two straight baskets, but he had to sit after picking up his third foul when he and Bradley traded elbows with 5: 22 left (both were called for fouls).

Washington scored four straight after Muresan sat, on layups by Strickland and Cheaney. The basket by Cheaney, with 4: 53 left, had the Bullets within 40-36.

But Washington would miss on five straight shots, and hit just one field goal the rest of the half. The Bullets trailed at the half, 47-40.

The biggest blow of the half was the injury to Legler, who had been steady in his two games back since suffering a major knee injury last April. Legler planted wrong late in the half and fell back, forcing him to leave the game.

Despite the absence of Legler and Webber, the Bullets were able to pull to within 56-55 after a short jumper by Howard with 5: 50 left.

But that was as close as the Bullets got in the third quarter. The Nets responded with a 12-3 run, and had a 68-58 lead after a jumper by Gill with 2: 34 left. The Nets took a 74-64 advantage into the fourth quarter.

NOTE: The Nets got a rare technical foul in the second quarter for playing with four men. Kevin Edwards was cut on his chin and the Nets couldn't replace him because Reeves was in the locker room. So the Nets called timeout and Reeves returned. But Reeves failed to go in the game because he thought Edwards was shooting free throws and play started without him.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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