Bullets go down despite Webber

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LANDOVER -- Washington Bullets coach Jim Lynam anticipated the spark that Chris Webber would provide his team when he checked in for his first action since December, and he got it. The Bullets went on a roll, and would lead the Miami Heat by as many as nine points in the first half.

But that initial spark turned into a lot of fizzle. The Bullets went cold in the third quarter, scoring just 12 points -- their second-lowest scoring quarter of the season -- and lost, 105-95, to the Heat before 17,206 at USAir Arena.

The Bullets lost guard Rex Chapman for three weeks with a broken thumb. He had a team-high 20 points.

"We have another guy out, it's part of the game," said Bullets guard Scott Skiles. "Somehow we've got to get some points."

It was the third straight loss for the Bullets, who next will play five consecutive road games starting tomorrow against the Charlotte Hornets.

Any thoughts that Lynam would ease Webber into the lineup ended quickly. Webber, who missed six weeks and 19 games with a separated shoulder, played a team-high 41 minutes and took a team-high 20 shots. He scored 17 points, but just three came in the second half, on a three-pointer in the final minute.

"It wasn't fatigue, it was just me," Webber said of his three-point second half. "I felt good in the second half. I did get a lot of good looks at the basket. I didn't do much with it."

"It's definitely nice [returning]. Playing with Juwan [Howard], he got me off and got me some good shots. He sacrificed his game."

Webber's former teammate at Golden State, Billy Owens, scored 30 points and Matt Geiger added 21 to lead the Heat.

The Bullets had entered the fourth quarter trailing by 11 points, and fell behind, 82-69, after a layup by Keith Askins just minutes into the final period.

Washington scored the next seven points, capped by a three-pointer by Mitchell Butler from the right corner that pulled the Bullets within 82-76.

The Bullets were within six, 84-78, after Doug Overton made two free throws with 8:47 left. Then Miami began to pull away, scoring the next eight points -- the last two on a dunk by Geiger with 5:25 left that put the Heat ahead, 92-78.

Washington went nearly 5 1/2 minutes in the fourth quarter without a field goal. When the game ended, the crowd that remained booed the Bullets as they walked off the court.

didn't take long for Webber to get into the game. With the game tied at 10, Lynam walked down the bench with 8:12 left in the quarter and called Webber's name -- to the delight of the crowd. And when Webber finally got a chance to check in with 7:08 left, the crowd roared.

His impact was immediate. The Bullets trailed, 14-12, when Webber entered the game. The 6-foot-10 Webber -- playing center -- tipped in a Calbert Cheaney miss for his first points. Next was a baseline jumper from about 12 feet. And later when he took a nice feed from Skiles and threw down a reverse dunk, the Bullets had a 21-16 lead with 4:12 left.

The Heat would come back to tie the game at 23 after Owens converted a three-point play with 1:53 left. But Washington outscored the Heat, 11-2, over the last 1:26 of the quarter. And with the Bullets outscoring Miami, 22-11, with Webber (eight first-quarter points) on the court, Washington had a 34-25 first-quarter lead.

Washington's biggest lead of the half, 35-25, came after Skiles hit a free throw to open the second quarter. But with Webber playing alongside the Washington reserves, Miami got back into the game and got as close as 43-42 after two free throws by rookie guard Khalid Reeves with 6:10 left.

By that time four Washington starters -- and Webber -- were in the game. And the Bullets went on a 9-2 run, increasing their lead to 54-45 after a layup by Webber with 2:39 left.

Miami would score the next eight points, four by former Washington guard Ledell Eackles, whose jumper with 29.2 seconds left got the Heat to within 54-53.

That concluded Miami's scoring for the half. Skiles hit a free throw and Webber threw down a reverse dunk with 3.4 seconds left and the Bullets -- behind 14 points by Webber and 13 by Chapman -- had a 57-53 halftime lead.

Washington had a 68-67 third-quarter lead after a Cheaney tip-in with 5:04 left. But that would be the last field goal of the disastrous quarter for the Bullets.

During those last five minutes Howard was called for three fouls. After arguing his fifth with 4:26 left, Howard was given a technical foul and removed from the game.

The Heat, meanwhile, was in the midst of scoring 13 straight points, and after a layup by Glen Rice with 1:37 left the Heat had an 80-68 lead. Only a free throw by Butler with 1:19 left kept the Bullets from being shut out over the final five minutes, making the score 80-69 Miami going into the fourth quarter.

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