Webber's word is good: Bullets stop Pistons

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LANDOVER -- Just call him Chris Webber, prophet.

With his team mired in a six-game losing streak, Webber sat next to David Letterman on national television Thursday night and guaranteed a Washington Bullets win against the Detroit Pistons last night.

That guarantee was delivered in impressive fashion in Washington's 115-104 win before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at the USAir Arena that marked the first win of the Webber-era after four losses.

Six players scored in double figures last night for the Bullets. The team shot 53.1 percent -- the first time Washington had been above 50 percent all season. And the final game of the team's five-game homestand, which had appeared on the verge of being an entire waste when Washington fell behind by 15 points during the second quarter, was salvaged.

"It was the first time all year that we shot well," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "We got out on the break and we scored on the break. We played very aggressive against the double team."

Webber, who flew to New York after Thursday's practice to be on Letterman's show, was teased about the team's losing streak.

"There was a little bit of pressure [after making the prediction]," Webber said. "But this is our team, and I'll embarrass myself for them."

There was nothing embarrassing about the way Webber or the Bullets played. The 6-foot-9 forward temporarily left the game in the third quarter to receive three stitches for a cut over his right eye caused in a collision with Detroit rookie Grant Hill. When he was in the game, Webber scored 18 points, making eight of 11 shots in 34 minutes and providing perhaps the highlight of the night when he threw down a windmill dunk in the face of Detroit center Mark West with 1:45 left. Webber spent the next few seconds glaring at West, who turned away laughing. It earned Webber a technical for taunting, but the message had been sent.

"I just stared at him," said Webber, who also contributed nine rebounds, three assists, four steals and three blocks.

Calbert Cheaney came off the bench to lead the Bullets with 19 points, hitting four of five three-point shots.

Also impressive off the bench were Mitchell Butler (11 points in 20 minutes) and Doug Overton (nine points, five assists), the backup point guard who had been struggling.

And don't overlook Washington's other starters: Kevin Duckworth scored 18 and had 10 rebounds. Don MacLean and %% Rex Chapman each had 17 points. And although Scott Skiles wasn't in double figures, he did pass off for 10 assists and committed just two turnovers in 28 minutes.

The night got off to a rough start for the Bullets, with Detroit grabbing its largest lead, 38-23, with 10:39 left in the second quarter.

But Overton got the Bullets running. They scored the next nine points -- the last five by Overton -- to draw within 38-32. Overton's jumper 4:03 before halftime gave the Bullets a 44-43 lead.

From the 15-point deficit, the Bullets went on a 31-11 run and had a 54-49 lead after two free throws by MacLean with 19.2 seconds left in the half. The third quarter was much of the same, with Cheaney's three-pointer with 27.3 seconds left completing a 30-point swing -- and giving Washington an 82-67 lead.

Detroit, behind the veteran Joe Dumars and Hill, would not roll over. Trailing by 12 with 6:10 left in the game, Detroit rallied to within 100-95 after a layup by Dumars with just under five minutes left.

There would be no disappointment for the home fans this time, though. Washington scored the next five points and increased its lead to 105-95 after two free throws by Chapman with 3:37 left. It was enough to earn the victory.

Hill scored a career-high 28 points for Detroit, wowing the crowd with an assortment of dunks.

"For his size, his ability to put it on the floor is frightening," Lynam said.

But for once, an opponent wouldn't be garnering most of the cheers in the USAir Arena -- which has bothered Webber in his brief stint as a Bullet. The crowd cheered the Bullets long and loud when it was all over, and Webber and Juwan Howard had finally done something that they were unable to do as collegians -- beat a team with Hill.

BULLETS TONIGHT

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Opponent: New York Knicks

Site: Madison Square Garden, New York

Time: 7:30

TV: Channel 20

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: New York, which gave up 93.5 points a game in its previous six games, gave up 97 in three quarters last night in a 125-100 loss to the Magic. The Knicks hadn't given up that many points in regulation since April 19, 1991. %%

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