Bullets' aim off in loss to Celts Usually reliable shooting falters in 110-100 defeat; Minor sparks Boston; Howard's 22 points lead shuffled lineup


BOSTON -- There are some nights you execute your game plan well enough to win, which the Washington Bullets -- despite being .500 going into last night -- had done in their first six games. And then there are some nights you simply dismiss with a shrug, and move on.

Last night was one of those nights for the Bullets. Entering the game as the best shooting team in the league and facing a Boston Celtics team that has struggled, Washington came through with its flattest effort of the season in a 110-100 loss before 17,592 at the FleetCenter.

Washington was playing short-handed, with rookie forward Rasheed Wallace missing the game to be with his mother, who suffered a stroke Wednesday. (She was in stable condition yesterday, and Wallace is expected to rejoin the team today.)

Even if Wallace had been there, the Celtics (2-4) played so well it would have been hard for anybody to stop them.

The starting backcourt of Greg Minor and Dana Barros teamed with center Eric Montross to hit 25 of 35 shots (71.4 percent). Montross (nine of 12) scored 19 points. Barros, whom the Bullets tried to sign before the start of the season, scored 15 points. But it was Minor, starting just his second game because of the knee injury to Dee Brown, who did the most damage.

Minor, a second-year guard out of Louisville, hit three big shots in the final 2:21 of the game, when the Bullets were making their last attempt to get back into the game. Minor finished nine of 10 from the field for 18 points. Overal, the Celtics shot 57.7 percent.

"Greg Minor can score," said Boston coach M. L. Carr. "We know what he can do and he's responding. His confidence is rising. Greg is going to be a great guard in this league."

Juwan Howard, starting at power forward for the first time this season, scored 22 points to lead the Bullets and made one big shot after another in the second half, when he scored 16 points. But he started slowly in the first half, hitting just two of 12 shots.

"It's just one of those nights where we just didn't shoot well," Howard said. "I definitely didn't get anything going until late."

Gheorghe Muresan, who scored 30 points in a game against the Celtics last season, had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Robert Pack had 15 points and eight assists, but he hit just six of 21 shots and struggled.

Pack has been the key to the Bullets' shooting success, with his quick sprints down the court often resulting in easy baskets for himself and his teammates. But last night there was no running game for the Bullets, who scored just four points, all in the second half, off the break.

"They made a lot of shots," Pack said. "And it's hard to get in the open court if you're taking the ball out of the basket all the time."

The Bullets never led, with Washington at one point in the fourth quarter falling behind by as many as 14. And as flat as the Bullets played, several times in the second half they had opportunities to get back into it.

Washington had a chance to tie in the third quarter, getting to 72-71 after Howard made one of three free-throw attempts with 4:48 left. Twice in the fourth quarter, when Howard scored 11 points, the Bullets were able to close to within six. But Minor made one tough shot after another in the final minute, putting the game away for the Celtics.

"The first half of the game they beat us down the floor and just got easy shots in transition," said Bullets coach Jim Lynam. "The second half I thought we played better defense. Give the Boston Celtics credit, they executed well."

Lynam, who took a spill in the fourth quarter in front of the Bullets' bench, said he didn't believe Wallace's absence was a factor, but several players disagreed.

"I think they looked a little bit more up front," said Mitchell Butler, who started his first game at shooting guard, with Calbert Cheaney starting at small forward. "We had our problems for being small. It felt like we were getting banged around."

Said Pack: "You feel the difference. He's a presence. He gets the boards. He intimidates shots."

With a chance to rebound tonight against the expansion Toronto Raptors, however, there were no long faces after last night's effort.

OC "It's just one of 82 games for us," Howard said. "No big deal."

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