Bullets derail Blazers, 108-104 Webber's 26 help bring 11-game win streak to end

March 23, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- So much for the NBA's longest active winning streak.

The Portland Trail Blazers claimed that distinction going into last night's game with the Washington Bullets, having won 11 straight. But the league's hottest team was cooled off by the Bullets, who came away with a 108-104 win before a sellout crowd at USAir Arena.

Chris Webber had 26 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Bullets, who improved to 33-35 and won for the fifth time in their last eight games.

The Bullets were attempting to gain ground on Cleveland, but the Cavaliers beat Dallas last night and remained 3 1/2 games ahead of Washington.

"We're just trying to make the playoffs, that's what it basically comes down to," Webber said. "We need to keep playing, and keep winning."

Rod Strickland also had a solid game for the Bullets, scoring 22 points and accumulating 11 assists against his former teammates.

Three Trail Blazers scored more than 20 points, led by J. R. Rider's 28. Former Bullets forward Rasheed Wallace had 25 points and 10 rebounds. But Cliff Robinson had a night he'd soon like to forget, going scoreless in 41 minutes. Robinson missed all seven of his shots from the field, including a potential game-tying three-pointer in the final seconds.

With the game tied at 79 going into the final quarter, the Bullets began to create some room with their defense. Over the first 5: 28 of the period, the Blazers were held to one field goal and turned the ball over three times.

That helped Washington to 13-4 run and, after Strickland hit two free throws with 7: 04 left, the Bullets had a 92-83 lead. The crowd erupted and the Bullets began celebrating -- prematurely.

The celebrating ended when Kenny Anderson responded seconds later by hitting two free throws. And Rider followed that with a three-pointer, pulling the Blazers to within 92-88 with 6: 32 left.

Later, Washington had a 102-98 lead after Gheorghe Muresan converted a three-point play with 1: 30 left. The Blazers fought back, eventually tying the game at 103 when Rider hit two free throws with 33 seconds left -- setting up a frantic final seconds.

A layup by Muresan with 19 seconds remaining gave the Bullets a 105-103 lead. Arvydas Sabonis was fouled at the other end, with seven seconds left. With an opportunity to tie the game, Sabonis missed the first free throw. He made the second, pulling the Blazers to within 105-104.

Chris Whitney was fouled immediately, and he made both his free throws with six seconds left for a 107-104 lead. That's when Robinson attempted a wild three-pointer from 30 feet, failing to hit the rim.

For the first 24 minutes of the game, Washington traded shot for shot with the Blazers, although Portland took a 56-55 halftime lead.

The Blazers have been perhaps the league's most balanced team, especially during an 11-game winning streak going into last night. And that balance was demonstrated in the first half when five of its players scored at least eight points each, led by center Sabonis' 14.

The Bullets struggled early, making just four of their first 12 shots. They missed four shots in a row at the end of that stretch but trailed by just 13-8 after two free throws by Wallace with 6: 22 left.

From that point, the Bullets could do no wrong offensively, ending the quarter hitting their final nine shots. Webber scored six of his eight first-quarter points during that stretch, and the Bullets led by as many as six after a layup by Tracy Murray with 40 seconds left made it 28-22.

The Bullets led 28-24 by the end of the quarter, having outshot the Blazers, 61.9 percent to 43.5.

After hitting its first two shots in the second quarter, Washington's string of 11 consecutive baskets ended when Howard missed a short jumper. But even as the shooting cooled, the Bullets were able to match their biggest lead of the half when a three-pointer by Murray made it 38-32 with 8: 05 left.

Portland scored the next eight points, tying the game at 38 on a free throw by Chris Dudley, and taking a 40-38 advantage on a dunk by Stacey Augmon with 6: 37 remaining.

For the rest of the half, the lead changed hands six times. Washington took its last lead, 55-54, on two free throws by Howard with 24 seconds left. But Wallace scored on a tip-in with five seconds remaining, giving the former Bullet 12 points in the half and Portland a 56-55 lead.

Pub Date: 3/23/97

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