Cavs silence Bullets, 91-75

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CLEVELAND -- When the week began, the Washington Bullets were speaking of growth, of taking several steps forward after an overtime loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Orlando Magic. If that game was a step forward, last night's 91-75 loss to the Central Division-leading Cleveland Cavaliers was several steps backward.

Cleveland's brand of basketball is not pretty, a slow style that does its best to put fans to sleep. But the Bullets brought nothing to the table in terms of excitement, producing a season low in offense before a sellout crowd of 20,562 at the Gund Arena. The 75 points were only six shy of the Bullets' all-time low of 69 against Houston in March 1993.

It was the 10th loss in the past 11 games for the Bullets, who fell to 7-18. With several injuries that have depleted the team, the promising season of a month ago is going kaput in a month of December that thus far has produced just two wins.

Calbert Cheaney scored 16 points and Juwan Howard had 15 for the Bullets. Kevin Duckworth, who missed Monday's game against Orlando with a sore Achilles' tendon, was simply missing last night. He was scoreless in 16 minutes.

Cleveland extended its league's best winning streak to 10 games, and improved its record to 19-8. The Cavaliers need one more win to match the franchise mark of 11 straight set last

February and March.

Bobby Phills scored 22 points and Tyrone Hill had 21 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers.

After falling behind by as many as 26 points in the third quarter, the Bullets made a brief comeback to start the fourth quarter.

Cheaney's three-pointer from the left corner started the Bullets on a 9-0 run, and Washington was within 15 with 6:20 left after a layup by Doug Overton made it 83-68.

But after nine straight wins, the Cavs crowd wasn't worried. Its confidence was rewarded as Cleveland righted itself to finish off a victory that was pretty much a yawner.

Going against a team that's allowing the fewest points in the league, the Bullets managed to hit just 42.9 percent of their shots in the first half and trailed 56-44.

Cleveland's style during its winning streak has been deliberate, and it was much of the same in the first half last night as the Cavaliers got just four points off the fast break. But despite nine turnovers, the Cavs were able to execute their offense to near perfection, shooting 57.1 percent in the half.

The Bullets, looking for a win after playing well in Monday's overtime loss to Orlando, got a big first quarter from Howard, who had 11 points and four rebounds. Howard's seventh point, a free throw with 7:24 left, gave Washington a 13-8 lead.

Hill, Phills and Chris Mills combined to score Cleveland's next 14 points, however, with Mills' three-pointer giving the Cavs a 22-17 lead with 3:44 left.

The Cavaliers would lead by as many as seven in the quarter, which ended with Cleveland ahead 30-25.

With both teams going to their benches at the start of the second quarter, the Bullets were able to tie the game at 37 after a layup by Anthony Tucker with 6:43 left.

Then the Cavaliers took control. Danny Ferry's three-pointer started a 10-0 run and less than three minutes later Cleveland's lead was 47-37.

Howard returned to the game and ended Washington's drought with a layup, and Scott Skiles followed with a free throw that had the Bullets within 47-40.

But Cleveland outscored the Bullets 9-4 the rest of the half and went into the intermission with a 56-44 lead. Hill scored 14 points and Phills added 13 in the half for the Cavs.

The third quarter was no contest, as the Bullets hit just five of 21 field-goal attempts (23.8 percent) and trailed by as many as 26 points.

Cleveland scored the first eight points of the quarter, increasing its lead to 64-44. It took the Bullets more than three minutes to score, with Skiles hitting a three-pointer with 8:47 left.

The closest the Bullets would get was 15, after a layup by Howard cut Cleveland's lead to 68-53. But the Cavaliers continued to have a field day from the free-throw line, hitting 11 of 16 in the third quarter. Washington went to the line just four times, hitting two, and Cleveland by quarter's end had an 81-57 lead.

Including the second half, the Cavs outscored Washington 30-14 at the foul line.

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