LANDOVER -- Disgusted with losing, Chris Webber dared to predict a Washington Bullets victory over the Milwaukee Bucks last night. Then Webber and rookie forward Juwan Howard loaded the rest of the team on their backs and took it on a ride that would end weeks of frustration.
In probably the best game that the two have played side-by-side since joining the Bullets, Webber came two assists shy of a triple-double with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and Howard tied a career high with 31 points as Washington defeated the Bucks, 114-110, last night before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at USAir Arena.
It was the first win in nearly a month for the Bullets, who had not tasted victory since beating Cleveland on March 19. The win also ended a 13-game losing streak, thus avoiding the distinction of having sole possession of the longest losing streak in franchise history (the 1966-67 team also lost 13 in a row).
There was one word that described the way the Fab Two played: awesome. The two combined to hit their last 19 shots from the field, Webber his last 10 and Howard his last nine, including seven of seven from the field in the fourth quarter when he scored 14 points.
"That was unreal," Doug Overton, who had 16 points and six assists, said of the two. "I wanted to sit down and watch them. The passes they made looked like they had been playing together for 10 years, and not just a couple."
The Bullets needed every bit of their heroics, against a Milwaukee team that entered the game two games behind the Boston Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Bucks trailed by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and managed to get within two in the final minute. Milwaukee was trailing 113-110 with the ball and a chance to tie when Marty Conlon stepped out of bounds while squaring up for a three-pointer with eight seconds left, allowing the Bullets to escape.
"We almost let it slip away," Webber said. "I was very happy with our performance. I think we're getting there."
This was a much happier Webber, unlike the one who sat fuming in his locker stall after Thursday night's loss against the New York Knicks. It was during that game, when the Bullets fought back from a 21-point deficit, that coach Jim Lynam noticed the effort from Webber and Howard that would be the foundation for last night's win.
"I don't know if the average eye could notice it, but they were so frustrated that in the second half they just took it up to another level," Lynam said. "They started diving for balls, they tried to block every shot. I think this was a carry-over."
The Bullets took an 83-80 lead into the fourth quarter and, instead of immediately blowing the lead, Washington for a change built on it. The Bucks pulled within 90-88 on a three-pointer by Glenn Robinson. But the Bullets responded with an 11-2 run that, after a dunk by Howard, gave them a 101-90 lead with 6:29 left.
Milwaukee then began to pick up the intensity on defense, forcing the Bullets to rush shots as the 24-second clock wound down. And the Bucks began to click on offense, pulling within 107-106 after Eric Murdock was credited with a field goal on a goaltending call against Webber with 1:29 left.
But Howard, on Washington's next trip, got the ball on the right baseline and, with the shot clock again winding down, hit a short jumper to put the Bullets ahead 109-106 with 1:07 left. Milwaukee would get within two, but the Bullets were able to hold on for the win and make Webber's prediction come true for the second time this season. Webber made the prediction after the loss in New York.
"We wanted this game more, maybe because Chris guaranteed it," Howard said. "He needs to keep doing that."
The earlier prediction came in December when Webber went on "Late Show with David Lettermen" and predicted a win against the Detroit Pistons. He's 2-for-2 on the season.
"I guess it was desperate measures," Webber said. "I'm not a psychic. I just knew the guys wouldn't let me down. It put pressure on us. Everybody stepped up."
NOTES: Don MacLean returned after missing two games with an injured right hand. He scored two points in 20 minutes. . . . Vin
Baker led the Bucks with 30 points.