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Bullets get bumped off road, 93-85

THE BALTIMORE SUN

HOUSTON -- After last night's loss to the Houston Rockets, the only thing the Washington Bullets could be thankful for is that their four-game road trip finally is over.

It started Thursday with an impressive overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks, but the Bullets lost their third straight last night to the defending champion Rockets, 93-85, at The Summit.

Forward Otis Thorpe scored 27 points and Hakeem Olajuwon 19 -- and each had 14 rebounds -- to lead the Rockets. Chris Webber's 22 points and 16 rebounds, and Gheorghe Muresan's presence on defense were the few bright spots for the Bullets.

The Bullets shot just 36.8 percent from the field, but coach Jim Lynam was impressed by the defensive effort in the second half -- particularly in the fourth quarter when Washington held Houston to 18 points.

"Tonight was certainly a positive, but when you're short-handed your defense has to perform," said Lynam, who was missing Rex Chapman (sore groin muscle) and Don MacLean (knee tendinitis). "Our defense had to get better than it had been in the previous two games."

Once again the Bullets had to attempt to play from behind, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field and trailing after a half, 47-38.

The Bullets could do little to contain Thorpe, who hit seven of 12 shots and scored 16 points in the first half.

"Don't forget, Otis Thorpe gets to play with the best player in the game," Webber said. "Sometimes when we concentrated too much on Hakeem, we neglected Otis. The points Olajuwon didn't score, Otis did."

Washington led early, 7-4, after a tip by Webber just more than three minutes into the game. But Thorpe on the inside, and Kenny Smith sparked a 24-8 Houston run.

Smith had eight points during the run and Thorpe 11. And after Thorpe's layup with 1:57 left, the Rockets had a 28-15 lead.

Washington could do little on the offensive end, shooting 28.0 percent from the field (seven of 25). It was another dismal stretch for Calbert Cheaney, who, one day after hitting five of 16 shots against the San Antonio Spurs, was 0-for-7 from the field in the first quarter after which the Bullets trailed 30-19.

Lynam looked for someone who could stop Houston's easy baskets, and got a defensive lift from Muresan, who started the second quarter. Muresan, 7 feet 7, forced the Rockets to a perimeter game and hit three field goals -- all jumpers -- in the first six minutes. That allowed the Bullets to pull to within 34-28 after a dunk by Cheaney (he would wind up missing his first eight shots) with 7:20 left.

Muresan went out with 5:17 left, and the Rockets would hit four of their remaining five field goals from in the paint. Houston again led by as many as 13, after a layup by Thorpe made it 47-34 with 1:39 left.

But the Bullets scored the last four points to trail at the half 47-38.

Washington shot just 33.3 percent in the half, in which Cheaney and Webber each went 4-for-13. Each of the Houston starters scored seven or more points, with Thorpe's 16 leading the Rockets.

For the second night in a row any chance of the Bullets remaining competitive was shattered in the third quarter. San Antonio on Monday outscored the Bullets 42-23 in the third and led by as many as 30. It wasn't quite as bad last night, but the Rockets were able to build leads by as many as 17 in the third.

Missed layups, fouled-up fast breaks, horrible passing -- the Bullets saw it all. Washington turned the ball over six times during the 12 minutes, managed just three assists and shot 36.9 percent -- making it no surprise that the Bullets trailed, 75-59, going into the final quarter.

NOTE: The Bullets return home for two games, facing Utah on Thursday and Minnesota on Saturday. On Monday the Bullets begin a four-game, five-day road trip in Phoenix.

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