LANDOVER -- With Chris Webber and Juwan Howard, it seems the Washington Bullets should have one of the best forward tandems in the league. But last night those two had nothing on the Milwaukee Bucks' Vin Baker and Glenn Robinson.
Robinson had the biggest scoring game of his career with 44 points. And Baker nearly had a career night, scoring 36. The two of them helped Milwaukee break a two-game losing streak in last night's 126-118 win over the Bullets before a sellout crowd at USAir Arena.
In losing, the Bullets dropped their fourth straight game and fell to three games under .500 (7-10). Webber scored 26 points to lead Washington, but Howard had only 12 on 4-for-12 shooting from the field -- his second straight subpar performance.
Trailing by 15 points going into the final quarter, the Bullets did exactly what they did to come back from a big deficit in their Nov. 23 win at Milwaukee -- use a full-court trapping defense.
One would imagine the Bucks would have been prepared this time, after they blew a 12-point lead in losing the game to Washington two weeks ago. But it was the same story this time as, at one point, the Bucks turned the ball over on four straight possessions against a Washington team with three reserves on the court -- Chris Whitney, Harvey Grant and Tracy Murray.
After that fourth turnover in a row, Murray hit a three-pointer to cap a 13-0 run, pulling the Bullets within 94-92 with 9: 26 left.
The run ended when Robinson hit a short jumper for a 96-92 Milwaukee lead.
Washington would get as close as 105-104 after a three-pointer by Whitney with 6: 08 left. But this would go down as a wire-to-wire win for the Bucks.
After losing for the third straight time Thursday to the Toronto Raptors, the Bullets' most obvious change in the early going was the aggressive play of Rod Strickland and Calbert Cheaney.
Cheaney, who often gets his shots early and then disappears, had 15 points in the first half -- 13 in the opening quarter. And Strickland, who had just three assists in the loss to the Raptors, had nine assists in the first half -- six in the first quarter. But their contributions were not enough to overcome a 54.2 percent-shooting half for the Bucks, who went into halftime with a 59-54 lead.
Baker, who entered the game averaging 20.8 points, had 19 by halftime. And Robinson, who entered the game averaging 21.4 points, also had 19. The two combined to hit 17 of 24 shots -- destroying Washington's front line.
The Bucks were well rested, having not played since Tuesday's loss to the Chicago Bulls. And the Bucks started the game hot, hitting their first five shots from the field and taking an 11-4 lead after Robinson hit a jumper with 9: 40 left.
Milwaukee, which shot an impressive 56 percent in the opening quarter, twice led by nine points. Cheaney, who entered the game with just an 8.5 scoring average, did his best to get the Bullets back into the game. He scored nine points in the final 3: 29 of the quarter, and his lay-up with 42 seconds left had Washington within 29-28.
Later, a Grant jumper with 19 seconds left had the Bullets within 31-30, but a short baseline jumper by Sherman Douglas just before the buzzer gave the Bucks a 33-30 lead.
The Bullets would run into problems midway through the second quarter when Chris Webber (10 points, seven rebounds in the first half) picked up his third foul. A short time later the Bucks would take their biggest lead of the half, 47-37, after a Ray Allen dunk with five minutes left.
Milwaukee had a 57-47 lead with 1: 28 left, and appeared ready to blow the game open. But the Bullets ended the half with a 7-2 VTC run, capped by Harvey Grant's three-pointer at the buzzer.
In the third, the Bullets would never get any closer than three points. That happened in the opening minutes, when a lay-up by Gheorghe Muresan had the Bullets within 64-61.
But Robinson and Baker simply picked up where they left off in the first half, which helped the Bucks maintain their lead. The Bullets, on the other hand, had problems scoring and managed just two field goals over the final six minutes of the third quarter.
Pub Date: 12/08/96