Bullets take hard road to pass 76ers, 107-106 They end 9-game drought, but Webber strains hip

March 05, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

PHILADELPHIA -- Even with a nine-game road losing streak, the Washington Bullets didn't figure to have any problems last night. They were facing a Philadelphia 76ers team that had the fourth-worst record in the league and appeared to be just counting the days before the season ended.

Appearances can be deceiving.

The Sixers, despite coming off a four-game West Coast trip, played the Bullets tight from beginning to end. And the Bullets needed a baseline jumper from Calbert Cheaney with 19 seconds left and two Rod Strickland free throws to pull out a 107-106 victory -- and same themselves an embarrassing loss.

The victory for the Bullets (27-31) didn't come without a price. Washington had to finish the game without Chris Webber, who suffered a strained hip while fighting for a rebound in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Webber did not return, and his status for tomorrow's game in Miami is unknown.

The Sixers showed exactly why they have a 15-43 record. After giving up the Cheaney jumper that gave the Bullets a 105-103 lead, the Sixers still had a chance to tie the game -- or win. But Rex Walters attempted an inbounds pass to Derrick Coleman, and threw it right into the hands of Juwan Howard.

Howard got the ball to Strickland, who was fouled and sealed the win with two free throws.

"I saw the ball coming and just stepped on in and stole it," said Howard. "It was definitely surprising to see it coming in my hands. But it just feels good to get a win, I don't care how we did it."

Cheaney led the Bullets with 24 points and Howard had 22. Jerry Stackhouse had 25 points and Coleman, who hit a three-pointer with six seconds left, had 23 to lead the Sixers.

Even when Webber was on the court, the Bullets were unable to shake the Sixers. At the time Webber left the court with 11: 03 left the Bullets were trailing, 85-83.

With Webber out the Bullets actually took a 92-89 lead after a short hook shot by Ashraf Amaya (seven rebounds) with 9: 00 left. And from there the Bullets and Sixers traded basket for basket, missed shot for missed shot and turnover for turnover.

It was not a pretty sight.

The Sixers could have put the game away, but over one stretch of 2: 21 they hit just four of eight free throws. Philadelphia took a 103-100 lead with 1: 01 left on two free throws by Stackhouse.

The Bullets, playing their first game at the new CoreStates Center, fell into a hole right from the start. Webber picked up two quick fouls, and played just five minutes in the first quarter. And with their starting power forward out, the Bullets found themselves trailing by as many as 12 points, 27-15, after former Washington forward Don MacLean hit a three-pointer with 3: 06 left.

The Bullets came back by scoring the next six points. And when Chris Whitney hit a three-pointer with just over six seconds left, the Bullets were within 29-26.

Washington continued its roll in the second quarter, beginning with an 8-2 run, and took a 34-31 lead after two free throws by Webber with 9: 15 left.

Webber picked up his third foul with just over six minutes left and, again, he was forced to sit. And while he was on the bench the Sixers came back and led by as many as seven points, that coming with 3: 25 left after Allen Iverson (18 points) hit a three-pointer for a 53-46 lead.

But the Sixers would connect on just one more field goal the rest of the half. The Bullets closed with an 11-2 run for a 57-55 lead at the break.

And the game stayed close throughout the third quarter, with no more than four points separating the teams, setting up the fourth quarter, and Cheaney's heroics.

"Tracy [Murray] didn't have the shot, he dumped it down to me and I was lucky to be open," said Cheaney, who scored six of the Bullets' final 10 points. "It's a great feeling, it does a lot for your confidence. But now we have Miami. We can't have too many losses down the stretch."

Pub Date: 3/05/97

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