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Hot Spurs shoot down Bullets

THE BALTIMORE SUN

SAN ANTONIO -- At one end of the locker room stood Scott Skiles, part of the Orlando Magic team that won 50 games last season.

At the other sat Chris Webber, a rookie a year ago on a Golden State Warriors team that also won 50.

The disgust in the voice of both after the Washington Bullets' loss to the San Antonio Spurs last night spoke volumes.

The Bullets have lost by more points than last night's 122-101 defeat at the Alamodome, but this season they haven't lost as badly. On this night, the Bullets looked more like the Los Angeles Clippers.

They were outscored 42-23 in the third quarter. During those 12 minutes, the Spurs hit 15 of 18 shots (83.3 percent). San Antonio would lead by as many as 34 points on its way to the laugher, which also featured Dennis Rodman's colorful 1994-95 debut.

And afterward Webber sat almost hidden in his locker, speaking in a tone barely above a whisper.

"I'm not going to get used to this, I'm never going to get used to this," Webber said. "I'm emotionally drained, nearly burned out. I'll just keep doing what I can do."

There's not a lot the Bullets (6-10) can do if they continue to allow opponents to have record-breaking performances.

San Antonio's 42-point outburst tied the record for most ever in a third quarter against Washington. (It was also the most in a quarter this season for the Spurs.) The seven three-pointers allowed by the Bullets in the second half were a record, and Chuck Person's four three-pointers in the third quarter tied the record for most in a half vs. Washington.

The Spurs, for their part, set a record for most three-pointers in a quarter (six in the third), with Person's four treys in that quarter tying a franchise record.

In other words, it was a game that was both one-sided and ugly.

"For me, it's very, very, very frustrating -- beyond disappointing," said Skiles, who was limited to six points and five assists. "I can only speak for myself. Our [execution] is way down at this point."

A team that at the start of the year was making tremendous strides defensively, allowed an opponent to shoot near or above 50 percent for the third straight game.

Dallas shot 49.5 percent in the opening game of the four-game road trip on Thursday; Denver shot 55.6 percent on Saturday and San Antonio 55.3 percent last night.

"They shot the lights out in the third period," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "Our defense the last three games hasn't been good. You're not going to have a chance if you let another team score like that."

David Robinson can be expected to get his, and the All-Star center didn't disappoint, scoring a team-high 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. But Vinny Del Negro? Sure, he's a starter. Sure, he was averaging 12.1 points going into last night. But the former North Carolina State guard was 7-for-7 from the field last night, scoring 17 points in 27 minutes.

Even Rodman, sporting green hair for the holidays, scored six points in 27 minutes. The forward who missed the first 17 games due to two suspensions and a leave of absence got a standing ovation from many Spurs fans when he entered the game late in the first period. And he dazzled the crowd with a dramatic dunk in the second quarter and a behind-the-back pass in the fourth.

On the other end, the Bullets had no offensive flow. Mitchell Butler scored 24 points, hitting all eight of his shots. Webber had 21. Anthony Tucker added 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his second start.

But Kevin Duckworth (four of 11), Skiles (two of seven) and Calbert Cheaney (five of 16) shot a combined 32.3 percent.

"We had a lot of trouble on offense and we had a lot of trouble stopping them," Skiles said. "You put those two things together, and it's a problem."

Lynam, usually a chatterbox on the sidelines, sat quietly most of the second half, which featured an extended session of garbage time.

"We just didn't have a flow offensively throughout the game," Lynam said. "They had a soft trap and they took us out of running some sets."

But he did try to find the positive.

"We still have a chance of playing .500 on the trip if we get a win [tonight]," Lynam said. "Any team in the league would take .500."

Unfortunately for the Bullets, the attempt at .500 is coming against the defending NBA champion Houston Rockets -- a game that can result in even more disappointment.

"You want to ask me for the solution -- I don't know," Webber said. "I don't know what to say. I've said everything."

Skiles also was speechless.

"I wouldn't want to say one thing, there are too many things," said Skiles, when asked what's wrong with the team. "I don't know what it is, but it's a problem."

NOTES: Don MacLean was put on the injured list yesterday with tendinitis in both knees. Gheorghe Muresan was activated, and played five minutes. . . . Rex Chapman missed his second game with a sore right groin muscle. . . . Rodman lifted weights in a private room after the game and declined to speak to reporters. Describing himself as Rodman's spokesman, teammate Jack Haley said Rodman's five turnovers weren't unusual since Rodman hasn't touched a basketball during his five weeks away from the Spurs.

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BULLETS TONIGHT

Opponent: Houston Rockets

Site: The Summit, Houston

Time: 8:30

TV/Radio: Ch. 20/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: Washington concludes a four-game road trip against the defending NBA champs. Houston opened the season with a nine-game winning streak but has cooled off, winning three of its past nine. C Hakeem Olajuwon has shown little drop-off from his MVP season, staying among the league leaders in scoring (26 ppg), rebounding (10.8) and blocks (3.7).

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