LANDOVER -- You just knew it was one of those nights at the start of the second quarter when the Washington Bullets and the Philadelphia 76ers paraded in Mark Acres and Manute Bol to do battle in the pivot.
No, it wasn't one of those NBA matchups that fans would line up to pay for. That was evident by the sparse crowd in attendance at the Capital Centre last night to watch Philadelphia's 98-90 win over Washington in a game between the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
The crowd of 6,904 -- the fourth-smallest Capital Centre crowd this season -- saw a 15-point first-half Bullets lead collapse under the hot shooting of Philadelphia's backcourt of Jeff Hornacek and Hersey Hawkins, who scored 30 and 19 points, respectively. That helped Philadelphia (23-50) increase its lead over last-place Washington (21-52) to two games.
It was just another game that had Washington coach Wes Unseld shaking his head as the Bullets had one more turnover (six) than field goals (five) in a fourth quarter in which the team scored just 13 points. It was part of a second half in which the Bullets were outscored 16-2 on fast-break points after having a 15-4 edge over the first 24 minutes.
"It's the same scenario -- we couldn't score and we couldn't get the boards," Unseld said. "I thought we seemed like we became cautious in the fourth quarter. We had the shots, but they weren't falling and sometimes we weren't taking them."
Hornacek and Hawkins had shot opportunities, and they weren't passing them up. The two combined for 33 points in the second half, connecting on 12 of 18 shots (including five of 12 second-half three-pointers).
It was Hawkins who got hot in the third guarter when he scored nine points, helping him shake off an 0-for-6 first-half performance. Hornacek was steady throughout, but hurt the Bullets badly in the fourth quarter when he hit three straight three-pointers during a 13-2 run that lifted Philadelphia from a two-point deficit to a 95-86 lead with 3:21 left. The Bullets never were able to threaten after Hornacek's burst.
"He was filling it up tonight," said Michael Adams, whose 21 points led the Bullets' starters, all of whom scored in double figures. "He got in a comfort zone and he broke our backs."
Unfortunately for Hornacek, that comfort zone is coming with a team that -- like the Bullets -- is on its way to the NBA lottery. A year ago, he was an instrumental player for the Phoenix Suns during their playoff run, but now he's left finishing the season with a string of meaningless games.
"It's difficult for all the guys," Hornacek said. "I wish we were battling for a playoff position, but when you know you're just playing the season out and have nowhere to go, it's hard to get up to that high level. You just gotta go out and play as hard as you can."
And the Bullets most likely will finish their last nine games without a center, having already lost the services of Pervis Ellison (sprained knee ligament) and Charles Jones (torn knee ligament). Last night, Gugliotta started at center for the Bullets, who were out-rebounded 50-36 by the Sixers.
"I'm going up against a lot bigger, stronger guys," Gugliotta said. "It's a learning experience for me. It's not a position I feel comfortable with."