LANDOVER -- Some might say that Chris Webber got outplayed by rookie Joe Smith when the Washington Bullets played the Golden State Warriors less than a week ago. The rookie forward had more points and more rebounds than Webber and the Warriors won the game.
Payback, for Webber, was rather sweet last night.
Playing before a national television audience for the first time this season, Webber had the game of his young three-year career with a career-high 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Bullets defeated the Warriors, 115-94, before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at the USAir Arena.
It was the first triple-double of the season for Webber, as the Bullets ended a three-game losing streak and evened their record at 13-13 in the first game of a home stretch.
Webber was one assist shy of a triple-double for several minutes when he finally got it. Webber handed the ball off to Tim Legler, who nailed a long three-pointer with 2:16 left to give him 20 points for the night.
On the next dead ball, Webber left the game to a loud standing ovation as he was replaced by Bob McCann. It was the second straight game at the USAir Arena that Webber had established a career high, having scored 37 points in the Dec. 15 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Smith, who was playing his first pro game in Maryland after a two-year career with the Terps that led to national Player of the Year honors and his being the No. 1 pick in last year's NBA draft, made a much quieter exit. He departed with 5:17 left just after soaring toward the basket for a dunk attempt only to be met at the rim and denied by Jim McIlvaine, who blocked the shot. Smith, playing with a sore right hip, scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 31 minutes.
Having been caught road weary in a 15-point loss at Golden State last week, the tables were turned last night. It was the Bullets who had two full days off, while the Warriors were playing the second of back-to-back games in a four-game East Coast swing.
The Warriors were sloppy with the ball in the first half, committing 16 turnovers. And yet Golden State was able to be within 61-55 at the intermission, mainly behind a 56.1 percent shooting performance.
Smith gave a solid performance in 18 first-half minutes. The rookie, who scored 27 points against Washington in a 132-117 win last week, had 11 points (5-for-6 from the field) and six rebounds in the first half.
Smith, with more than 40 friends and family members at the game, was received warmly when introduced before the game. But it was the Bullets who got off to the fast start, holding the Warriors to a single field goal in nearly five minutes and taking a 16-4 lead after a jumper by Webber with 7:43 left.
Washington's lead was 20-8 when the Warriors finally came to life. Smith caught a rebound and threw down a powerful #F left-handed dunk, which started the Warriors on a 10-2 run. After two free throws by Tim Hardaway with 4:14 left, the Warriors were within 22-18.
But the turnovers would hurt Golden State. Nine of the 16 came in the first quarter, three each by Latrell Sprewell and Chris Mullin. Which is why the Warriors, despite shooting 55.0 percent in the first quarter, trailed 36-28.
Golden State would tie the game nearly three minutes into the second quarter on a jumper by Mullin. But the Warriors were never able to take the lead, and lost the services of Mullin for the last 6:11 of the half after the Golden State forward got cut under his left eye on an inadvertent elbow from McIlvaine.
With 1:55 left, the Bullets had increased their lead to 55-46 after a jumper by Juwan Howard (16 first-half points and 24 overall). With Webber going for 19 points, five rebounds and five assists in the half, the Bullets had a 61-55 halftime lead.
While the Bullets continued a somewhat lackluster performance through the third quarter, Webber dominated. Going face-to-face with Smith for the second time in a week, Webber scored 13 points in the third quarter, hitting five of seven shots.
By the end of the third quarter, Webber had 32 points, just five shy of his career high. And by limiting the Warriors to just one field goal over the last four minutes, the Bullets were able to take an 82-73 lead into the final quarter.
* NOTE: The Bullets played without guard Calbert Cheaney, sidelined with a sore right leg. He was replaced by Ledell Eackles, the last Bullet before Webber to score 40 points in a game (against Atlanta in February 1992).