Bullets overtake Magic


LANDOVER -- All last season Orlando Magic center Shaquille O'Neal had things pretty much his way against the Washington Bullets. But before O'Neal left the USAir Arena last night, all he could offer was a little whining.

O'Neal, the leading scorer in the league going into last night, found himself a non-factor, going scoreless in the fourth quarter as the Bullets overcame a nine-point deficit in a 112-110 victory before a sellout crowd.

The Bullets have won five straight at home for the first time since December 1990. That also was the last time the Bullets finished a month with at least a .500 record -- until last night, when Washington ended its opening month 6-6.

The game marked the end of Orlando's four-game wining streak over the Bullets. That streak started last season with the arrival of O'Neal, who averaged 25.3 points, 18.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks against Washington.

O'Neal had never lost to the Bullets, but last night, when the Magic needed him, the 7-foot, 300-pound center was 0-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter.

"The calls down low are not even," said O'Neal, who has been fined $5,000 by the league for criticizing the officiating. "They got all the calls down low, and I didn't get any. The game's not fair if the calls are not even."

The Bullets, who had a two-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter, fell behind during a 13-4 run by the Magic at the end of the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter when O'Neal was out of the game -- and Greg Kite was playing center.

O'Neal was on the court when Scott Skiles (16 points) hit a three-pointer that gave the Magic a 95-86 lead with 7:01 left.

But then Bullets guard Rex Chapman (19 points) got hot. Chapman scored the first eight points of an 11-0 run -- six on three-pointers -- that gave the Bullets a 98-95 lead with 4:36 left.

Orlando regained the lead, 101-100 with 3:27 left, after Skiles made a layup and ensuing free throw.

But Washington took the lead for good on Michael Adams' jump shot, and led by as many as six in the final minutes.

"We sat out and got a break and when we came back we needed some buckets," said Chapman, who hit all three of this fourth-quarter shots, including two three-pointers. "We just have lot of fight in us. We have to continue to do this to keep the fans in the game."

All five Bullets starters scored in double figures. Adams led the Bullets with 24 points, and Tom Gugliotta scored 19 and had 10 rebounds and seven assists.

But it was the defensive work on O'Neal in the fourth quarter that helped the Bullets offset a 35-point performance from Nick Anderson, who hit his last nine shots from the field, and end a two-game losing streak.

"I was just trying to play Shaq the best way I could without fouling out," said center Kevin Duckworth. "Shaq was able to touch the ball a lot in the fourth quarter. He's a great player, and I love the challenge playing against him."

The game's start was delayed for 52 minutes after condensation from the ice below the playing surface began to seep through the seams of the floor.

Every air conditioner in the building was turned up, and the court was mopped with towels continuously during the break until the court was ruled playable by lead official Jess Kersey.

The delay didn't hurt either team in the first half, when Washington shot 52 percent and Orlando 50 percent.

There were 11 ties and 10 lead changes in a closely played first quarter. The teams were tied at 7 when O'Neal began his power show. He scored 10 of Orlando's next 12 points, with five dunks. One dunk came over 7-foot-7 center Gheorghe Muresan (career-high seven points, seven rebounds), but after the O'Neal show was over, the Magic only had a 19-17 lead.

After Muresan tied the game with a hook shot over O'Neal, Anderson hit back-to-back three-pointers (he was 3-for-4 from three-point range) that gave the Magic a 25-19 lead.

But the Bullets closed the quarter strong, outscoring Orlando 10-2 over the last four minutes for a 29-27 lead.

O'Neal scored two of Orlando's first three second-quarter field goals on dunks (six of his seven first-half field goals came on dunks, and he had nine for the game), the second of which gave the Magic a 33-31 lead with 10 minutes left.

Orlando led 36-34 after Donald Royal (11 first-half points, all in the second quarter) converted a three-point play. But Don MacLean scored seven during an 11-4 run that gave Washington a 45-40 lead after his layup with 5:47 left.

The Bullets had their biggest lead, 50-44, after Doug Overton hit a three-pointer with 3:08 left in the half. Overton, MacLean and Calbert Cheaney scored Washington's final 20 points of the quarter for a 54-50 halftime lead.

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