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Bullets' Murray takes step up on home turf Ex-UCLA star scores 22 to beat 76ers, 119-104

THE BALTIMORE SUN

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Even though this is his fourth NBA season, and even though he's played at the Great Western Forum many times as a professional, Washington Bullets forward Tracy Murray still gets a special feeling when he plays in the shadows of his hometown, Los Angeles.

"It's a place I wanted to play in my whole life," Murray said last night. "And to play well on this court, it just does something to me."

That was more than obvious over the past two nights in the GTE Shootout. Murray had two of his best efforts of the preseason. Playing in 24 minutes off the bench last night, Murray scored a team-high 22 points to help lead the Bullets to a 119-104 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in the tournament's preliminary game. The host Los Angeles Lakers played the Phoenix Suns in the championship game.

Friday night against Phoenix, Murray, who was born in Los Angeles and starred in college at UCLA, scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

His contributions as a sub are coming at a key time, with the Bullets still juggling their lineup because of injury. And they come after Murray started the preseason slowly, scoring eight and six in his first two games.

"The first two games are like a feeling out process, to see where you fit in," Murray said. "Right now, we have guys who are shaken up, and that's when players have to step up and help out. Coming off the bench, you have to step up."

And that's even more critical with the injury to Juwan Howard (shin splints in his left leg). After missing the first three preseason games, Howard played 33 minutes Friday. But he complained of soreness and said he would not play again until he is 100 percent. Howard took a flight home yesterday, instead of continuing to Portland, where the Bullets will play the Trail Blazers tomorrow.

The Bullets got several key contributions as they ended a three-game losing streak.

Chris Webber played well again and had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists in 28 minutes. Murray was one of four reserves scoring in double figures. Jaren Jackson had 19 and was 7-for-11 from the field (4-for-6 on three-pointers). Chris Whitney scored 13 and Ben Wallace had 13 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. The Bullets are 2-3 and got a taste of winning for the first time in more than a week.

"We had a lot of guys play well for us," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "The preseason -- it offers a nice glimpse of what happens during the year. There are going to be nights where you're not going to have everybody. You still have to go out and play and win."

Lynam was particularly impressed with the play of Wallace, a 6-foot-9 forward from Virginia Union who is edging closer to a roster spot. Wallace also blocked two shots, once denying Jerry Stackhouse on a dunk attempt.

"I'm feeling more confident the more I play," Wallace said. "At first I was nervous, and started rushing my shot. Now, I'm calm and everything is falling into place."

The Bullets had trailed by as many as 10 points before taking control in the second quarter when Murray scored 13 of his 16 first-half points. The Bullets rallied with a defense that held the Sixers to 37.9 percent shooting.

After trailing 30-20, the Bullets scored the final eight points of the first quarter, including back-to-back three-pointers by Chris Whitney and Murray. A 17-1 run in the second period put the Bullets in control.

Point guards Rod Strickland and Whitney held the Sixers' Allen Iverson in check. A Georgetown standout who was the top pick " of the 1996 draft, Iverson scored a game-high 23. But he was 4-for-21 from the field and 1-for-12 in a horrendous first half.

Afterward, Murray, whose parents were watching from courtside seats, wore an ice pack on his neck.

He was slightly injured in a collision with Clarence Weatherspoon.

"I played well on Friday, but I was frustrated that we lost," Murray said. "It's a lot better when you can win, especially for me to do it here at home."

Pub Date: 10/20/96

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