LANDOVER -- As Washington Bullets forward Juwan Howard sat in front of his locker reflecting on what had transpired on the court just moments before, all he could do was laugh.
"It was just one of those nights," Howard said. "Me, personally, I couldn't throw a beach ball in the ocean."
Just call it a night to forget for Howard, who hit six of 23 shots. And a night to forget for the Bullets, who hit just 37.4 percent from the field in a 102-87 loss to the Charlotte Hornets before 18,756 at the USAir Arena.
The high expectations for this season are why the Bullets were hit with sporadic boos in the second half as they fell behind by as many as 18 points.
What probably upset the fans most is that a couple of no-name players -- Anthony Goldwire and Tony Smith -- did much of the damage against a Bullets team that entered the game fourth in the league in field-goal percentage allowed.
Smith scored 20 points, hitting seven of nine shots in 23 minutes. Goldwire scored 18 points, hitting six of nine shots in 26 minutes. The two combined for seven of 11 three-point shots, helping the Hornets finish 10 of 21 from long range (47.6 percent) for the night.
"Those guys can play, but they hit some tough shots, some big shots," Rod Strickland said. "They surprised me. They hit a lot of three-pointers."
In three previous games, the Bullets had only allowed nine three-pointers. With Goldwire, Smith and Dell Curry (12 points) filling it up from the outside, it opened the interior game for Charlotte as former New York Knicks forward Anthony Mason contributed 17 points and Matt Geiger -- who had 22 points in a win over the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week -- had 16.
Going against a team that started two 7-footers (Geiger and Vlade Divac) and the powerful Mason at small forward, this was probably the first game where Washington's lack of a center hurt. The Bullets were out-rebounded, 55-42.
"You rarely see two centers playing at the same time and both of them are so big, and Chris [Webber] and I are 6-9," Howard said. "But I still don't use that as an excuse. We didn't play well as a team."
They got enough shots, 99 for the night, and they took care of the ball, turning it over only seven times, but the Bullets shot poorly from the field (37 of 99) and poorly from the free-throw line (nine of 18). Webber recorded his second straight double double (19 points and 14 rebounds), but never really established inside position.
"Any time you struggle to that degree offensively, you have to give their defense credit," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "They did a good job pushing off the post area."
It was so good that Webber scored six points in the first quarter, then went more than 21 minutes before he scored again. When he finally came to life offensively in the third quarter, he scored six straight points, the last two bringing the Bullets within 63-56 with 3: 24 left.
But the Bullets entered the fourth quarter trailing by 10 points. And in the final period they got to within single digits only once as the Hornets pulled away with the easy win. "We couldn't put the ball in the hole, and that's the name of the game," said Strickland, who did manage to hit seven of 12 shots on his way to a 14-point, six-assist night. "We didn't do much of anything. We were a bit indecisive all night."
The boos did not go unnoticed by the players.
"Sometimes you hear the boos from the fans, and you feel they're your supporting staff," Howard said. "But you can't get down on yourself; you hold your heads up high and learn from it. The good thing is we get to come back [tonight in Indiana]."
NOTES: Prior to the game, the Bullets placed reserve center Lorenzo Williams (sore left knee) on the injured list. Williams said that if the knee isn't better after missing the required five games, he'll have arthroscopic surgery or take cortisone treatment. Surgery would keep Williams out of the lineup for three to four weeks. Charlotte point guard Muggsy Bogues warmed up with the team prior to the game, but did not suit up. Bogues has been bothered by a sore knee.
Pub Date: 11/09/96