Bullets stunned, steamed after 99-97 loss to Hornets Washington falls back into tie with Cleveland

April 13, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTE -- It was clear that Chris Webber was agitated. But on this night, after the Washington Bullets lost a heartbreaking 99-97 game to the Charlotte Hornets, Webber did not want to say anything about questionable calls late in the game. Or anything about officials. Especially the officials.

While Webber wouldn't say it, several team sources last night said official Jim Clark told Webber during the game that he was going to get him back "for showing me up in a game two weeks ago."

Whether the retaliation theory is true or not (Clark worked the Bullets' win over Dallas at Baltimore Arena two weeks ago), it won't change the fact that the Bullets blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead on the way to the defeat. With Cleveland beating Philadelphia last night, the Bullets fell back into an eighth place tie with the Cavaliers (both teams are 40-38) as both battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Webber was obviously upset about he loss, saying the defeat "hurts probably more than losing any game this year." But when it came time to comment about the officials, Webber was silent.

"I'm not saying anything about the officials," Webber said. "I'm just trying to make the playoffs. I'm not trying to show anybody up."

Questionable calls? The last one of the game came with 25 seconds remaining when Bullets guard Rod Strickland broke the press and drove the lane with a 97-96 lead and for what appeared to be an uncontested layup.

Strickland missed the shot and thought he was fouled. He slammed his mouthpiece to the floor during the timeout that followed.

"I should have made the layup," Strickland said. "But I got hit in the head."

The play proved to be crucial as Ricky Pierce hit a game-winning three-pointer with a little more than five seconds left that sealed the win for the Hornets.

The Bullets may have been more disturbed about what transpired earlier in the period. In a game that had a playoff-type atmosphere -- and a game in which the officials allowed a lot of physical contact -- Webber was called for a foul while blocking an attempted layup by Glen Rice with 32 seconds left. Rice made both free throws, making the score 97-96.

Earlier, Webber -- after being slammed to the floor while battling for a defensive rebound -- was called for a technical foul by Clark while arguing on the other end of the court. Webber became so upset, he had to be restrained by his teammates.

When Rice hit the technical free throw to tie the game at 94 with 2: 13 left, the Hornets were concluding a 10-0 run after falling behind 94-84 with 5: 16 left.

"You all saw the plays that were questionable," Webber said.

When asked about arguing after being knocked to the floor by Anthony Mason -- the call that drew the technical -- Webber said, "Oh, that play. I remember a play like that. I was just trying to voice my concern about a no call."

The Bullets were most upset that they let the game get away -- and a chance to maintain a one-game lead over the Cavaliers. The Bullets had a chance to win because they did a good job containing Rice, the league's third-leading scorer who had 16 points on 4-for-14 shooting.

"I think the defense was good," Bullets coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "I think the last two nights we've gotten back to where we've played defensively. Juwan did as good a job as you can do on Glen Rice."

Yet it wasn't good enough to come away with a win, and the Bullets were upset. While some of his teammates were already showered and dressed after the game, Strickland sat in front of his locker -- wearing only a towel -- and buried his hands in his face.

"It's a tough loss," Strickland said. "But this was no slouch team. Now we have to get ready for the next game. We lost. Period. And that's the end of it."

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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