Wizards survive Walker, Celtics Forward scores 49 points

Washington wins, 110-108, despite ill-timed timeout

January 08, 1998|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- It was a game in which the Boston Celtics should never have had a shot at victory. And when a potential game-winning three-pointer by Boston guard Dana Barros bounced just long, Juwan Howard jumped high to snatch the rebound, handed the ball to Washington Wizards teammate Chris Whitney and walked off the court with a sheepish smile.

Howard knew he had dodged a big bullet, having committed a blunder that had shades of Michigan all over it. With 10 seconds to go and a three-point lead, he called a timeout when the Wizards didn't have any. But, unlike the 1993 NCAA title game when Chris Webber's mistake cost Michigan a chance at a championship, the Wizards were able to escape a 49-point offensive explosion by Celtics forward Antoine Walker with a 110-108 win before a sellout crowd of 20,674 at the MCI Center.

Webber scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help the Wizards improve to 19-17 -- the first time this season the team has been two games above .500. The Wizards also moved past Boston (16-16) in the Atlantic Division.

And the win spared Howard the embarrassment of losing the game with his timeout call with 10.1 seconds left. Boston had just moved to within 110-107 after guard Chauncey Billups -- fouled on a three-point attempt by Whitney -- connected on three free throws. Washington called its final timeout and opted to take the ball out at half-court, with Howard the inbounder.

Asked what was said in that final timeout, coach Bernie Bickerstaff would only say, "Some things are fundamental."

Several players did say that Bickerstaff alerted the team of the timeout situation before the Wizards broke their huddle. But when Boston aggressively defended the inbounds play, Howard, who was playing with the flu, instinctively motioned for a timeout. Almost immediately he realized his mistake, and shook his head in disbelief as Barros shot the technical free throw that pulled the Celtics to within 110-108.

"That's the first person I looked at," Howard said, when he was asked whether he thought of Webber's mistake at Michigan. "He said 'join the club.' "

The Celtics had enough time on the clock to try to tie the game. But with Walker having fouled out with 25 seconds left, Boston coach Rick Pitino decided to go for the win. Barros launched a three-point try just over the outstretched hand of Calbert Cheaney. The shot barely missed, allowing Washington to win its third straight and improve its record at the MCI Center to 10-1.

But for the fans it was a chance to see one of the best young players in the league in Walker, whose 36 attempts obviously demonstrates his ability to launch shots at will. Walker had 20 of his points in the fourth quarter, when he hit eight of 10 shots -- including three of three from three-point range.

His points were the most against the Wizards this season, and the most for a Boston player since 1992, when Larry Bird scored 49 against Portland in double overtime.

"Anytime you [match] Bird it's an honor," he said. "It was a great game. We fought and came back."

With a big assist from Howard who, along with Webber, could at least laugh about it in the end.

"Really, I just wanted to laugh when it happened," Webber said. "Still, I knew we would win the game. He was behind me in my situation, and I'm behind him."

Pub Date: 1/08/98

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