Nothing fazes Bullets, not even facing Magic 8th straight win sought in bid for playoff spot


BOWIE -- Gathering his team during yesterday's light practice, Washington Bullets coach Jim Lynam wanted to emphasize the recent troubles the Orlando Magic is experiencing at home -- losing four of six after winning its first 33 games this season at the Orlando Arena.

But the Bullets are riding such a high right now that the pep talk wasn't really necessary.

"The way we're playing, we don't think there's a team we can't beat," guard Brent Price said. "We're not going [to Orlando] to just show up. We're not going there to just give a good effort. We're going there to get the victory."

With seven straight wins going into tonight's game at Orlando, the Bullets are the hottest team in basketball, and are enjoying the team's longest winning streak since the 1987-88 season. Sunday's win over Toronto improved the Bullets to 39-39 (the latest they've been at .500 in a season since 1987) and kept the team within striking distance of Charlotte and Miami in the battle for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Heat won and the Hornets lost last night, leaving Washington 1 1/2 games behind Miami and a half-game behind Indiana.

Center Jim McIlvaine, who suffered a dislocated right ring finger, did not practice with the team yesterday. But McIlvaine will play tonight, probably with the ring and middle fingers taped together.

"I have nothing to lose," McIlvaine said. "What's the worst that can happen, that I'll be out for the season? I don't know how it's going to hinder me. It's not going to affect my three-point shot."

McIlvaine will need more than a sense of humor against Shaquille O'Neal, who scored 49 points in a win at Washington on March 22.

With regular center Gheorghe Muresan out and the injured McIlvaine the only real center on the Washington roster, the team yesterday was seeking an injury exemption (the team already has a league-maximum three players on the injured list) in an attempt to add another player.

"My sense is if we get it we'll get another big guy," Lynam said. "What will we do when [McIlvaine's] not out there? I don't know. We'll use some fouls with our other big guys."

Another player who came up big for Orlando in that March 22 win over the Bullets was point guard Anfernee Hardaway, who scored 30 points.

Hardaway played less than three minutes in Sunday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks because of a sprained right ankle. O'Neal told reporters after the game that the Magic was simply resting Hardaway for the playoffs, a move that could benefit the Bullets.

Price said that with Hardaway in the lineup the Magic is one of the most difficult teams in the league to match up with.

"They're a great team, behind Chicago probably the best team in the league," Price said. "They've got great perimeter shooters, and when they're shooting the ball well that's when Orlando is at its best.

"If we want to keep our playoff hopes alive, it's a must win," Price added. "Over the course of the season you can look at a schedule and say 'these are games we should win, these are game we're going to try to steal.' At his point, with four games left, we're looking at it as win, win, win."

Pub Date: 4/16/96

Bullets tonight

Opponent: Orlando Magic

Site: Orlando (Fla.) Arena

TV/Radio: Ch. 50/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: Orlando's loss at Milwaukee on Sunday was its second straight. G Anfernee Hardaway (sprained right ankle) played less than three minutes Sunday, and with less than a week left in the season, his playing time might be limited tonight. Orlando has won all three games this season against the Bullets, but the last two were by a combined five points.

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