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Down by 15, Bullets rally to beat Clippers


LANDOVER -- No matter how bad it gets in the NBA, no matter how many games you lose, there's usually one team that you know you can correct all your problems against.

Last night the Washington Bullets almost had all of their recent progress nullified, and nearly became that team.

Against the Los Angeles Clippers, the league's worst team, the Bullets trailed by 15 points in the second half. But a game after they blew an 18-point lead in a loss to the Golden State Warriors, this time it was Washington staging the comeback and escaping with a 93-87 win.

It was the fourth win in the last six games for the Bullets, who played the second half without Scott Skiles, who picked up two technical fouls in a nine-second span of the second quarter.

There were enough players to pick up the slack for Skiles, who had averaged 22.4 points and 10.8 assists over his last five games. Juwan Howard had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Rex Chapman had 24 and Calbert Cheaney added 23.

"It was one of those strange nights," Howard said. "But I don't care how we start offensively, what counts is how we end and that we win."

In last night's ending, the Bullets outscored the Clippers 22-9 over the final eight minutes. Washington held Los Angeles to just four fourth-quarter field goals to overcome the 15-point deficit in the third quarter and nine-point deficit in the fourth.

"We flat-out had to come back today," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "Our defense was active."

Maybe the biggest move of the game came with 8:35 left when Lynam inserted Mitchell Butler at point guard, replacing Doug Overton. The Bullets immediately scored nine straight points, pulling to within 78-76 after a three-pointer by Chapman with 7:02 left.

"I didn't want [Overton] out there the whole time," Lynam said of putting Butler at the point for the first time this season. "When I took Doug out, I liked what was happening."

He liked it so much that he let Butler finish the game there. With that lineup the Bullets tied the game at 83 after a jumper by Cheaney with 4:05 left, and Washington took its first lead of the half just 16 seconds later, 84-83, after a free throw by Howard.

Clippers center Charles Outlaw tied the game at 84 with a free throw. But the Bullets scored five straight points from the line, taking an 89-84 lead after two Chapman free throws with 2:14 left, and never looked back.

In their win over the Clippers in December -- a game that was the only thing between the Bullets and a 19-game losing streak -- Washington had to fight off a late rally for the 105-102 victory.

"They have seven wins, we have 10 -- we're not in a position to just show up and beat anybody," Chapman said. "They came out with more intensity in the first half, and we weren't as intense as we should have been."

And the Bullets had no answer for rookie forward Lamond Murray, who scored 25 points. But Murray did most of his damage in the first half, and scored just seven points in the second. He scored just two in the fourth quarter.

"We needed someone to help Lamond carry the load, and we sure . . . didn't find it," Clippers coach Bill Fitch said. "We didn't get any breaks in the third quarter and that's where we should have broken the game open."

The Bullets won despite getting out-rebounded 40-31 -- grabbing just four offensive rebounds.

They had four offensive rebounds on Thursday and three in the previous game. That's a total of 11 during the past three games, or three fewer than the Clippers had last night.

But the Bullets have won two of those three, and the rebounding should improve next week when Chris Webber is expected to join the team for practice -- and could possibly come off the injured list by the end of the week.

"We're playing good basketball," Lynam said. "We would not have been able to win [last night's game] a month ago."

NOTE: The Bullets sold 17,779 tickets, but the snowstorm resulted in only 6,158 fans showing up. Unused tickets can be exchanged for the Feb. 21 game against the Detroit Pistons. Tickets must be presented at the USAir Arena on the day of the game.

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