Bullets bull by Blazers, 106-84 Howard and Webber dominate inside, end trip on winning note


PORTLAND, Ore. -- Juwan Howard scored 23 of his 27 points in the first half, leading the Washington Bullets to a 106-84 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers last night.

Howard, who made 12 of 13 shots from the field in the first half, scored 11 straight points early in the second quarter as the Bullets grabbed the lead. Washington led by as many as 28 points in the second half to finish its West Coast swing with a 4-2 record.

Chris Webber added 23 points and 11 rebounds for Washington. Rod Strickland had 17 points and 10 assists in helping the Bullets beat his former team.

Arvydas Sabonis led the Blazers with 23 points and eight rebounds.

For Howard, the last day of the six-game, nine-day road trip showcased some of the best basketball he has played all season.

Howard hit 12 of 13 shots (his only miss was a short jumper in the opening minute of the second quarter) and helped lead the Bullets to a 54-43 halftime lead.

Howard made his first shot of the game, a baseline jumper over Clifford Robinson after which he ran in front of the Bullets bench and shouted "all night." It was the opening of a perfect first quarter for Howard, who would hit all six of his shots.

But it wasn't a perfect first quarter for the Bullets, who fell behind 9-2 after Sabonis scored on a three-pointer with 9: 32 left. The 7-foot-3 Sabonis would go on to hit two three-pointers in the quarter, on the way to scoring 16 points.

That would prove to be Portland's biggest lead of the half. The Bullets got back into the game behind their hot shooting (66.7 percent in the first quarter). Webber scored eight first-quarter points, with all four of his baskets coming the high percentage route -- the dunk.

Washington would tie the game at 25 when Howard scored the last of his first-quarter field goals with 2: 02 left. And by the end of the quarter the Bullets, who also got eight points from Strickland, were within 31-29.

With less than a minute gone in the second quarter Howard missed his first shot of the game -- and his only shot of the half. But he quickly got back on track, scoring the Bullets' first 11 points of the second quarter.

After Howard made his second field goal of the quarter, over Gary Trent, Webber looked to the bench and shouted "he's hot, we're going to him every time." Later after Howard scored against rookie Jermaine O'Neal, forcing the Blazers to call a timeout, Webber walked to the bench and just shook his head in disbelief.

The last of Howard's 11 straight points -- a layup with 5: 39 left -- gave the Bullets a 40-37 lead. Howard wound up playing the entire first half, but he did not score another point after hitting a free throw with 3: 44 left.

Still the Bullets led by as many as 13 points -- that coming after Strickland's free throw with 14 seconds left made it 54-41. The Blazers, on an inbounds play from the sideline with one second left, got a layup from Sabonis to go into the half trailing 54-43.

And in the third quarter on this night, there would be no let-up. The Bullets opened the third with a 12-2 run, increasing their lead to 66-45 after a layup by Harvey Grant with 8: 58 left. The Blazers also ran into trouble when Sabonis picked up his fourth foul with 7: 00 left, forcing him to the bench.

With no big obstacle to face in the middle, the Bullets had their way inside. Howard scored just two points in the third quarter, tTC finally taking a break after eight minutes. But Webber picked up the scoring slack, scoring 10 in the third. Washington led by as many as 24 points in the third, and took an 83-60 lead into the final quarter.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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