CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- From Washington Bullets guard Rex Chapman there was a tone of disappointment as he discussed his team's 127-111 loss to the Charlotte Hornets last night.
"It's tough," Chapman said. "We haven't been able to beat the Charlotte Hornets yet since I've been with the Bullets, and it's kind of getting disheartening because it seems like we're right there."
Washington was there all right last night, but only for a half, when the Bullets shot 60 percent from the field -- and still trailed by three. And Chapman did all he could do against his former teammates, scoring a season-high 37 points -- one shy of his career high.
But in the second half the Hornets wore out the Bullets in winning for a franchise record-tying fifth straight win. The victory also was Charlotte's sixth straight over the Bullets.
Four starters scored in double figures for the Hornets, with Alonzo Mourning leading with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Former Dunbar star Muggsy Bogues was the only starter who didn't reach double figures (six points), but he didn't have a bad game with a season-high 17 assists in helping to ignite the league's highest scoring team.
"Playing against Washington always adds a little something to me," said Bogues, a former first-round pick of the Bullets who was traded to Charlotte before the 1988-89 season. "I just want to come out and have a good game against them to prove they made a mistake."
Despite the loss, the Bullets (3-4) didn't have a particularly bad game. Washington shot 46.2 percent from the field, with Chapman making 14 of 19 shots before sitting out the last 6:24 of the game.
The Hornets were just too strong, particularly on the front line, where Charlotte's starters outscored Washington's, 72-24. In addition to Mourning's 26 points, Johnny Newman scored 24 and Larry Johnson had 22 (and a season-high 10 assists). The three combined to make 27 of 40 shots.
"It's a very talented team," Unseld said, adding his team didn't play that badly. "Their young guys [Mourning and Johnson] are beginning to show that they're going to be real stars."
DTC For a half the biggest star was Chapman, who scored 27 points while making 11 of 14 shots from the field to help the Bullets -- who outshot the Hornets, 60 percent to 58.3 percent -- stay within 69-66 at the half.
It was good that Chapman was hot because Don MacLean -- who scored a career-high 38 points Wednesday against Milwaukee -- was not. MacLean, matched up against Johnson and Newman most of the game, made one of 12 shots from the field and scored five points.
"I took the ball to the basket a couple of times and [Mourning] blocked them," MacLean said. "They're good -- they can score, and they can defend."
With Chapman keeping the hot hand early the third quarter, the Bullets got to 71-70 after the 6-foot-4 guard scored on a layup less than two minutes into the second half. But the Bullets were held scoreless for the next four minutes, and, with each Charlotte player on the floor scoring during an 11-0 run, the Hornets increased the lead to 82-70.
The Hornets led by as many as 15 in the third quarter and took a 96-87 lead into the final period. Washington cut the deficit to single digits in the fourth quarter just once after a layup by Kenny Walker with 5:24 left, but the Bullets were never really a threat.
"Tonight our offense kept us in the game for the first 2 1/2 quarters, and our defense really picked it up in the third," Charlotte coach Allan Bristow said. "We really took their legs out from under them. We ran them to the point where they were exhausted in the fourth quarter."
Bristow said a key for the second-half success was quieting Chapman.
"We did a little bit better on Rex defensively in the second half," Bristow said. "He had a fantastic game. He seems more focused now than he has been in the past."
But despite the focus of Chapman, the Bullets were just no match for a team that is on the verge of becoming one of the best in the NBA. Before the season, management discussed reaching that level in a couple of years.
With Mourning and Johnson playing well, the time may be now. "Muggsy does a good job pushing it up, they can score and the big guys rebound well," MacLean said.