Suns put hurt on Bullets Webber questions plays as Phoenix continues dominance, 114-107


PHOENIX -- When the Washington Bullets ran their winning streak to four games earlier this week, Chris Webber spoke about the team being on the road and bonding. But last night, after that streak came to an end, their were signs of dissension in the Bullets' locker room.

Prefacing his remarks with this comment -- "Please don't make anything negative, because it's not" -- Webber went on to question why Juwan Howard did not have the ball in his hands during crunch time in last night's 114-107 loss to the Phoenix Suns. It was the 17th straight loss to Phoenix for the Bullets, whose last win against the Suns came in 1988.

Webber, with his strong play all season, would have been the logical first option for the Bullets down the stretch if he had only been in the game. But he fouled out with 3: 59 left, ending with 18 points and 12 rebounds.

From Webber's view -- both on the court and observing from the bench -- Howard did not touch the ball enough. Howard had just two shots in the fourth quarter, missing both. Howard, after scoring 16 points in the first half on 7-for-8 shooting, was just 1-for-8 from the field in the second half. The Bullets went the final 3: 46 without scoring.

"I wonder how many shots Juwan took in the second half?" Webber asked. "I wonder how many in the fourth quarter and crunch time?

"The point is I think he should have gotten more, that's my point," Webber added. "I don't want to get anything started. The ball should be in [Rod Strickland's] hands. Not that anybody's taking the shots. But there are enough shots to go around, too many shots to go around."

Whether Webber's remarks were directed toward Strickland, or coach Jim Lynam were unclear. Strickland said that, in the fourth quarter, he was simply going with whatever opportunities presented themselves.

"We just missed some shots. I think we had some pretty decent looks, but we missed some shots," said Strickland, who finished with 20 points and 11 assists. "We ran a lot of pick-and-roll because they weren't defending it well. And I think we went to Gheorghe [Muresan] a lot down the stretch."

When Howard was told about Webber's remarks, he agreed.

"Truly, I was upset about what went on in the fourth quarter," Howard said. "I feel the ball should be in my hands more.

"A lot of people say it's Chris being an outspoken guy, a lot of times it's people saying negative things about him because Chris speaks his mind," Howard added. "He speaks the truth, and I truly agree with him. I'm just going to stay positive."

Asked why plays weren't going his way, Howard replied: "That's something we have to ask Coach Lynam. I wish I knew the answer."

In addition to the dissension, the Bullets had other problems. Webber fouled out with 3: 59 left. Muresan fouled out in the closing minutes. And Calbert Cheaney was lost in the first quarter, after straining his left hip flexor.

Still the Bullets, trailing by seven going into the fourth quarter, rallied to take a lead with Webber starting the fourth quarter on the bench. When Webber returned, he hit a three-pointer with 5: 50 left, giving the Bullets a 103-100 lead. And the Bullets were leading, 107-103, with 3: 46 left before the game unraveled.

"This game came down to a play here and a play there," Lynam said. "We just weren't quick enough at each end at the start of the second half."

Sam Cassell (Dunbar), who was Phoenix's starting point guard until Kevin Johnson came off the injured list, scored eight points in a second-quarter, 15-6 run that helped the Suns earn a 62-62 halftime tie.

Bullets tonight

Opponent: Los Angeles Clippers

Site: Los Angeles Sports Arena

Time: 10:30

Radio: WWRC (980 AM)

Outlook: Going into play last night, Clippers F Loy Vaught ranked 10th in the league in rebounding (10.8 rpg). This is the second of a back-to-back for the Bullets, who lost to Phoenix last night. Although the teams split their two games last season, the Bullets have a two-game road winning streak against the Clippers.

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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