LANDOVER -- With cries of "Googs" resounding in the Capital Centre, the Washington Bullets rallied 'round rookie forward Tom Gugliotta's 39 points to thrash Utah, 126-109, and break the Jazz's four-game winning streak.
The 6-foot-10 lottery pick from North Carolina State looked like Larry Bird reincarnate to the crowd of 11,027. Gugliotta hit 17 of 24 shots, including three three-pointers, grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds and dished out five assists to lead the Bullets (4-5) to their third straight victory.
"That's a good a game as I've seen a rookie play," said Wes Unseld, who, 23 years ago, won both Rookie of the Year and MVP honors for the then-Baltimore Bullets.
Added former Bullets guard Jeff Malone, now wearing a Jazz uniform: "I know it's only the first month, but I predict this kid [Gugliotta] is going to be an All-Star in a couple of years. It sounds crazy to compare him with Bird, but 'Googs' showed me he can shoot, pass, rebound, hit the open man and run the floor. What else is there?"
Gugliotta's 39 points is high for a rookie this season -- even eclipsing the Orlando Magic's gifted center Shaquille O'Neal. For the Bullets, only Walt Bellamy scored more points as a rookie, collecting 48 for the then-Chicago Packers, Jan. 21, 1962.
"I just felt real confident shooting the ball," said Gugliotta. "Naturally, I didn't think I was going to score 39. But I got into a 'zone' and didn't miss. We were moving the ball great and that led to a lot of easy baskets.
"But after I had 17 points in the first half, I thought they would come out and take away my outside shot. I was surprised they let me shoot it, and it kept going down."
But Gugliotta was hardly a one-man show, as the Bullets again xTC played without starting center Pervis Ellison (knee) and shooting guard Rex Chapman (back).
Unseld's makeshift backcourt of Michael Adams and rookie Doug Overton combined for 46 points and 24 assists, outplaying the more celebrated Utah tandem of John Stockton and Malone.
Reserve forward Larry Stewart popped off the bench to score 17 points in 22 productive minutes and backup center Charles Jones frustrated All-NBA power forward Karl Malone, limiting him to 22 points -- nine below his average.
"C. J.'s play falls under the category of intangibles," said Unseld, always a big Jones booster. "Most people don't understand how important he is to this team because they simply look at his stats. But the game he played against Karl Malone makes him one of our most marketable players."
The Jazz led, 63-59, early in the second half, but Gugliotta got hot, scoring 16 points in the third quarter to give the Bullets an 85-74 cushion.
NOTES: Bullets G LaBradford Smith, who sprained an ankle last Sunday, is expected to come off the injured list Wednesday night. Fellow G Chapman is sidelined indefinitely with a sore lower back.