LANDOVER - It was a night where an already bad injury situation for the Washington Bullets got worse. Facing a streaking Orlando Magic team, the Bullets learned at halftime that they would be without forward Rasheed Wallace, who suffered a fractured left thumb in the second quarter.
Somehow, the Bullets took the game into overtime. But the duo (( of Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway was just too much in Orlando's 111-108 overtime win before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at the USAir Arena.
O'Neal scored a season-high 49 points. Hardaway had 30. The two combined to score every Orlando point in the fourth quarter and overtime in an awesome display of two-man basketball.
In fact, the two combined to score every point but one after the 4: 45 mark of the third quarter when Orlando reserve guard Brooks Thompson scored on a short jumper. They scored 39 points over the final 21 minutes, a string that was broken only by a Brian Shaw free throw with three seconds left in the third quarter.
O'Neal and Hardaway ruined a solid game from Juwan Howard, who scored 27 points. Reserve guard Chris Whitney, on the last day of his second 10-day contract, added a career-high 19. The )) Bullets had a chance to tie the game at the end of overtime, but Tim Legler's desperation three-point attempt rolled out.
Even with Wallace out, Washington trailed by just 77-76 going into the final quarter. The deficit turned to four points after a dunk by O'Neal with 10: 04 left gave Orlando an 82-78 lead. With Gheorghe Muresan leaving the game with his fifth foul with 16 seconds in the quarter, the game was turning in Orlando's direction.
The Bullets got a lift from an unlikely source in Whitney. His two free throws with 9: 02 left tied the game at 82. Later, his three-pointer gave the Bullets a 93-90 lead with 5: 04 left and, after a turnover by Hardaway, he hit another jumper for a 95-90 lead. The Bullets took their biggest lead, 97-91, after a short jumper by Muresan with 4: 09 left.
Orlando rallied behind O'Neal, who powered his way to six straight points, and his layup with 1: 47 left tied the game at 97. Orlando took a 101-99 lead after Hardaway backed Calbert Cheaney down into the lane and hit a short jumper with 32 seconds left.
Howard was fouled by Horace Grant on Washington's next possession, and his two free throws with 18 seconds left tied the game at 101. Orlando had a final chance to win the game in regulation, but Dennis Scott who holds the season record for three-pointers made missed a wide-open attempt from the right corner.
While Orlando came into the game with the third-best record in the league, the Bullets at the start showed that they were not going to back down. And by halftime Washington, behind 12 points from Howard and 10 from Wallace, trailed by just 56-54.
O'Neal put on a show in the first half, scoring 22 points while hitting nine of 18 shots. Four of his baskets came on dunks, with the other five coming no further than six feet from the basket as he proved to be too strong against Muresan and Jim McIlvaine.
Hardaway has always given the Bullets problems, so Jim Lynam decided to defend him with Cheaney at the start. That strategy proved effective as the Magic started out slow offensively, with Washington taking a 10-7 lead after a jumper by Howard with 6: 27 left.
Orlando scored the next five points an O'Neal dunk and a three-pointer by Scott to take a 12-10 lead. But Washington came back and, after McIlvaine converted a three-point play with 2: 31 left the Bullets had a 21-18 lead.
Washington shot 50.0 percent for the quarter, hitting half of its shots. Orlando was better, hitting 55.0 percent from the field and, led by six points each from Hardaway and Grant, had a 24-23 lead.
Another O'Neal explosion came in the second quarter, when the 7-foot center scored 17 points. The Magic led 56-54 at intermission.
It was then that the Bullets learned they had lost the services of Wallace, who suffered a fractured left thumb after an Orlando player chopped down on his hand.
Pub Date: 3/23/96