Webber celebrates birthday with triple double 23 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists help Bullets top Warriors, 118-108

March 02, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- In Chris Webber's perfect world, the Washington Bullets forward would play against the Golden State Warriors -- every night.

There's something about the Warriors that bring out the best in Webber, who celebrated his 24th birthday with his seventh career triple double -- 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists -- in last night's 118-108 victory over the Warriors. It was Webber's third triple double in his past three games against his former teammates.

For Webber, that was an impressive feat. But there was little impressive about the Bullets (26-31) late in the game, when they allowed a 22-point, second-half lead to shrink to single digits before holding the road-weary Warriors (playing the last game on a six-game, nine-day trip) in the final minutes.

It was the second win in three games for the Bullets, who are

trying to cling to fading playoff hopes. Juwan Howard had 23 points for the Bullets, and Rod Strickland had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Webber entered the final quarter two rebounds and two assists shy of a triple double. He got it with 1: 04 left in the game when he fed Tracy Murray for a layup -- Webber's 10th and final assist.

Even in victory, the Bullets were booed as they left the court. That's because a promotion announced at the start of every home game, promising fans a free burger when the Bullets score at least 120 points.

When Murray hit two free throws with 19 seconds left, the Bullets had 118 points -- and the fans were tasting burgers. After the Warriors missed, Strickland grabbed a rebound and two Bullets broke loose on the other end. But Strickland, unaware of the promotion, dribbled until time expired -- drawing the wrath of the fans. The Bullets, long known as a frugal franchise, decided to spring for the burgers, anyway.

The effects of the long trip showed for the Warriors, who trailed at the half 63-52 after allowing the Bullets to shoot 71.1 percent in the first half -- a season-high shooting half for Washington.

A lot of Washington's success in the first half came from its top three. Howard scored 14 points, Webber had 12 points and Strickland had nine assists (eight in the first quarter).

The Bullets shot 78.9 percent in the opening quarter, and during one stretch hit 12 of 13 shots. But when Chris Mullin beat Howard for a back-door layup with 3: 53 left, it was Golden State that had a 25-20 lead.

By the end of the quarter, the Warriors, despite shooting more than 20 percentage points lower than the Bullets, were trailing 34-32. The Warriors probably should have led, but the team, shooting four free throws with less than a second left (Latrell Sprewell was fouled on a three-point attempt, and Webber received a technical), missed them all.

When the Warriors took the court for the start of the second quarter, point guard Mark Price, who played seven games with the Bullets last season, was on the floor for the first time. He was booed heavily, despite never having shown his abilities in a Washington uniform.

His presence didn't help the Warriors, who, after tying the game in the opening minute of the quarter, trailed by as many as 12 points. Joe Smith, who starred in college at nearby University of Maryland, hit two of eight shots and scored four points in 21 minutes.

Sprewell (who had 43 points when the teams met in December) had 14 points at the half to lead the Warriors. But Sprewell went scoreless in the second quarter, and, with their top two scorers pretty much under control, the Warriors trailed at the half 63-52.

By that time, the Warriors were out of gas. The Bullets opened the third quarter with a 10-3 run and increased the lead to 73-54 after a free throw by Strickland with 8: 53 left.

When the third quarter was over, the Bullets led 96-75, and Webber had 19 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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