LANDOVER -- Off to one side of the Washington Bullets' locker room sat Juwan Howard, staring blankly at the ground with his chin resting in his hand. On another side Chris Webber spoke, but his voice was barely above a whisper.
Maybe it was the frustration of a four-game losing streak. Or maybe it was the helpless feeling of watching Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson combine for 80 points -- a career-high 44 for Robinson and 36 for Baker -- to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 126-118 win before a sellout crowd of 18,756 at USAir Arena.
It was a crowd that booed loudly when the Bullets fell behind by as many as 15 points at the end of the third quarter. And it was a crowd that booed loudly when Howard, on the Bullets' final possession, let the clock run out instead of trying a shot. The Washington fans are getting pretty impatient with a team that has fallen three games below .500, and whose 7-10 record is far below expectations.
"I don't know, man," was Howard's response when asked what's wrong with the team. "I wish I had an answer for you."
One of the answers just might be rebounds allowed. The Bullets entered the game ranked 28th in the league in that category. That trend continued last night as the Bullets were out-rebounded 46-30.
The Bucks had 17 offensive rebounds in the game. In the third quarter alone the Bucks missed 10 shots -- nine field goals and one free throw. From those 10 misses, they got nine offensive boards.
"I don't think it's asking too much to rebound the ball," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "We have to rebound better."
What will wind up being forgotten in the loss is how Washington staged a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. As they did in a Nov. 23 come-from-behind win in Milwaukee, the Bullets got back into the game with defensive pressure that forced eight fourth-quarter turnovers -- exactly the number of turnovers forced in the fourth quarter in Milwaukee.
With the defense making a stand, the Bullets went on a 13-0 run and got to within 94-92 after a three-pointer by Tracy Murray (16 points -- all in the fourth quarter) with 9: 26 left. The momentum was in Washington's favor and the fans were suddenly behind their team.
"We knew they were a little nervous because they were turning the ball over," said Calbert Cheaney, who was on the floor during the comeback. "We thought we had something. But they kept their poise and weathered the storm."
Washington would later get as close as 105-104, after Chris Whitney hit a three-pointer with 6: 08 left. But Robinson answered with a three-pointer for a four-point Bucks lead. And the Bullets would get no closer the rest of the game.
"I don't put this game in the category of the others," Lynam said of Washington's recent losing streak. "We played incredibly hard to get back into this thing."
But both Baker and Robinson were too good last night. Robinson may have had the wrong jersey (he wore No. 43 last night with no name on it, after leaving his No. 13 jersey home), but he had the right game -- he hit 16 of 23 shots.
"Actually I was a little nervous before the game because I have never worn another jersey other than 13 since high school," Robinson said. "Maybe it was a mental thing. I just wanted to make sure I went out and played well."
And that he did, especially in the fourth quarter, when he scored 16 points and crushed Washington's rally. Robinson's 44 points came exactly one year to the day after he scored his previous career high of 39 against the Chicago Bulls.
Baker's 36 points fell five shy of his career high, and the 6-foot-10 forward also grabbed 12 rebounds. Baker and Robinson combined to hit 28-of-40, and their combined 80 points come during a season when some teams can barely break the 80-point barrier.
"You have to give them a lot of credit," said Webber, who led the Bullets with 26 points. "Those two played wonderful. They played great."
NOTES: Rod Strickland had a season-high 14 assists. Cheaney had a season-high 21 points, 13 in the first quarter. Howard scored only 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting from the field -- his second straight subpar performance.
Pub Date: 12/08/96