Webber, Bullets dunk 6-game slide, 102-98

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LANDOVER -- As the crowd at USAir Arena shouted its approval, Juwan Howard stood at the foul line with both hands raised.

"That's what I'm talking about. That's what I'm talking about," Howard said again and again in the game's final minutes, stopping only after Chris Webber delivered a friendly kick to his rear.

Washington 102, Sacramento 98. It's not a misprint, the Bullets actually won before a sellout crowd of 18,756, ending the NBA's longest losing streak at six games.

"I'm going to enjoy this one as long as I can," Webber said. "Maybe I'll even watch SportsCenter. You don't watch it too much when your team's losing."

Webber's fourth quarter was highlight material. He hit four of five shots and scored nine points. His three-pointer from the top of the key with 5:32 left tied the game at 88 and gave the Bullets momentum. And his dunk with nine seconds remaining, taking an alley-oop pass from Howard, gave the Bullets a 100-98 lead after the Kings had rallied from a five-point deficit with 1:30 left to tie.

"It was designed by Coach [Jim Lynam]," Webber said of the dunk, which brought back memories of he and Howard hooking up at Michigan. "He knew Juwan and I play well on that play."

The win was not merely a Fab Two showcase. Yes, Webber scored 25 points and Howard added 18. But all five Washington starters scored at least 14 points: 18 by Calbert Cheaney, 15 (and nine assists) by Scott Skiles, and 14 (and eight rebounds) by Gheorghe Muresan.

"I think the balance, if you're looking for keys, was certainly one of them," Lynam said.

Lynam singled out Muresan, who made six of nine shots in 35 minutes -- one minute off his season high -- for praise. But Muresan's biggest points were two free throws with 59 seconds left, which gave the Bullets a 98-91 lead.

"It was definitely Gheorghe's biggest contribution of the season," Lynam said. "Plus he made two big free throws at the end."

Why were they so big? Because the Kings have Mitch Richmond, the MVP of this year's All-Star Game. Richmond had struggled in his previous three games, averaging 13.3 points, more than eight below his average, and shooting 26.9 percent. But last night Richmond broke out, scoring 32 points.

And he nearly sparked a stunning comeback. After Muresan's free throws, Richmond made a jumper with 53 seconds left that had Sacramento within 98-95. On the Kings' next possession Richmond was open for a split-second on a three-pointer and buried it, tying the game at 98 with 27 seconds left.

"This basically shaped up as a carbon copy of 12 of the last 15 games, close in the fourth quarter," Skiles said. "And we lost most of them."

But they wouldn't lose this one. On Washington's next possession, Howard got the ball in the low post against former Maryland star Walt Williams. When Brian Grant ran to double-team, Howard lofted a pass near the basket that Webber slammed down.

Williams dribbled the ball off his knee on Sacramento's next possession, turning the ball over. Skiles was fouled when he caught the inbounds pass and -- nearly a week after he missed two free throws with a chance to tie against the Denver Nuggets -- he made both foul shots with three seconds left to seal the victory.

"This was a big game for us, but only if we put some wins together," Skiles said. "If not, then it wasn't all that big. We need to win some games -- tonight we found a way."

NOTES: Bullets G Rex Chapman was in uniform but did not play for the second consecutive night. Chapman has been bothered by the right thumb he broke Feb. 3. X-rays yesterday were negative. . . . Of Washington's 13 wins, last night's was the second over a team that is currently above .500. The other was against the Orlando Magic on opening night.

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