In a game marking yet another return by Chris Webber, the Washington Bullets forward showed he wasn't far from getting back to top form.
But it was also a big late shot by Gheorghe Muresan that was needed as the Bullets, without the suspended Juwan Howard, held off a late rally by the New Jersey Nets in a 93-87 win last night before 12,523 at the Baltimore Arena.
In addition to Webber's stellar return, Mark Price showed signs of regaining his shooting touch, and younger brother Brent Price found himself a spot in the NBA record books. The roles the three played helped the Bullets break a three-game losing streak, evening their record at 19-19 with their third win in three games at the Baltimore Arena this season.
Webber, who had missed 10 games with a strained left shoulder, had 25 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in his return. Mark Price had 13 points in 17 minutes off the bench. And Brent Price, who had made 10 straight three-pointers going into last night, hit his first three to break an NBA record. (Scott Wedman and Jeff Hornacek shared the previous mark of 11). Brent Price finished with 16 points.
But all those efforts appeared to be going to waste in the fourth quarter when the Bullets, who had led by 14 with 8:44 left, found themselves in an 85-85 tie after Chris Childs converted Rasheed Wallace's turnover into a layup with 47 seconds left.
The Bullets called time, and the next play went to
Muresan. At first he fumbled with the entry pass from Webber and had to go to his ankles to retrieve it. He picked the ball up and blindly threw up a shot over the outstretched arms of 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley that connected. Muresan was fouled on the play but missed the free throw.
"I lost the ball, but I got it and went real strong," said Muresan, who scored 11 points in 25 minutes. "I knew he [Bradley] was behind me. But I tried to go up so he couldn't get the ball."
With a chance to tie, the Nets went to Bradley, who missed a driving layup. Brent Price was fouled, wound up hitting the next five points from the line, and the Bullets escaped.
Earlier in the day the Bullets learned that Howard was going to miss the game for his fight with Miami Heat guard Bimbo Coles on Wednesday. The fight was costly for Howard. In addition to the $12,000 fine handed down by the league, the forward also lost 1/82nd of his $1.7 million salary, roughly $20,750.
"I definitely missed Juwan," Webber said. "A lot of times I find myself looking for him. It's hard to play without him because he'll catch some of the passes that I throw."
With Howard out, Webber was forced to play 40 minutes. At times he showed fatigue, and he wound up hitting just 11 of 25 shots. Still, many players envy the numbers that Webber posted last night.
"It felt pretty good," Webber said. "I'm just glad I didn't injure myself again. A lot of the shots that I had, I thought I would make, and I didn't. We'll have to go out and work on that."
Webber made two of three three-point shots on a night the Bullets made eight. Brent Price hit all six of his three-point shots Monday against Chicago, and followed by making all four Wednesday against Miami. He tied the record on a three-pointer from just right of the key 38 seconds into the game, and set it when he made his 12th with 8:20 left in the first.
"It's nice," Price said. "They told me on the plane coming back that I was one short. I didn't want to know. I had two nice looks early and I could relax after that."
Price made it 13 in a row with a three-pointer with 5:13 left in the half. The streak ended when he missed a long-range attempt with 7:01 left in the game.
He made four of five shots from the field, a better night than brother Mark, who was 4-for-10 for the game. But Mark hit two critical three-pointers in the first 3:11 of the final quarter, with the shots marking the beginning and the end of a 12-2 run by the Bullets. The last shot, on a break and over Bradley, gave Washington its biggest lead at 79-65.
The Bullets won despite getting pounded on the boards. The Nets had a 57-35 rebounding advantage, with Armon Gilliam grabbing 14 to go along with his season-high 32 points. Childs, the new starting point guard now that Kenny Anderson has been traded, scored 18 points before fouling out with 17 seconds left.
Howard will return tomorrow, but the Bullets could be without Calbert Cheaney. After missing 11 games with a strained ligaments in his right ankle, Cheaney slightly turned his ankle after scoring on a layup in the third quarter.