LANDOVER -- For a Washington Bullets team intent on paying back opponents for early season defeats, there still will be a chance later this week to avenge a November loss to the Charlotte Hornets. And to do so Saturday night, the Bullets will have to find a way to contain Charlotte shooting guard Glen Rice.
That's because last night Rice had his biggest game of the season, scoring 38 points to lead the Hornets to a 101-92 win over the Bullets before 17,313 at USAir Arena.
The Bullets (15-14) were one of the hottest teams in the league before last night, winning eight of 10 games. Washington came back from a 16-point deficit to take a lead in the fourth quarter, but they failed to score in the game's final 3: 19, ending a three-game winning streak and a four-game home winning streak.
In a battle of shooting guards, the Rice/Calbert Cheaney matchup was no contest. Rice played 47 minutes, hit 10 field goals, made all 13 of his free throws and connected on five three-pointers.
"I was trying to take over," said Rice, whose previous season high was 30 points against the Vancouver Grizzlies earlier this month. "I was very determined not to let this game get way from us."
As for Cheaney, well, it was yet another night that he would rather forget. Cheaney was scoreless in 21 minutes, missing all three of his shot attempts. Cheaney, in his three games back since missing three games with a hip flexor injury, has scored a total of seven points and averaged four shots. He might be the most nonshooting shooting guard in the league.
"No, the injury hasn't hampered me," Cheaney said. "I don't know what's wrong. I'm working hard, and I just have to work out these problems."
The Bullets could use more scoring from their shooting guard spot, but the fact that they lost last night was not merely Cheaney's fault. The Bullets simply had a tough time defending the Hornets' starting five -- each of whom scored in double figures.
"I know I love playing against the Bullets," said Bogues, a 1987 first-round pick of the Bullets from Dunbar High who was given up by the team after one season. "I think me and the guys feel comfortable playing against this team."
The Hornets appeared comfortable in the third quarter when they built their biggest lead, 77-61, after a three-pointer by Rice with 4: 09 left. But the Bullets recovered and pulled within 83-75 by the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Bullets coach Jim Lynam made a defensive adjustment, putting Tracy Murray and later Harvey Grant on Rice at the start of the quarter. And with Rice temporarily cooled, the Bullets rallied by holding the Hornets to just one field goal over PTC the first 5: 24.
Offensively, the Bullets opened the quarter with an 11-2 run and took an 86-85 lead -- the team's first advantage of the game -- on a dunk by Murray with 6: 58 left. And for the next few minutes the teams played even, with the Bullets tying the game at 92 after Howard converted a three-point play with 3: 19 left.
But those proved to be the Bullets' last points. Washington turned the ball over on its next two possessions and missed its final five shots.
Rice, despite going scoreless for almost the first six minutes of the quarter, scored 12 of Charlotte's 18 fourth-quarter points to help the Hornets stop their two-game losing streak.
While Rice was bothered by the defense of Grant, he was able to shoot easily over the shorter Cheaney.
"They run a lot of stuff for him, and run a lot of screens," Cheaney said. "And he has a quick release and when he goes up with his shot he gets in the air high. He's tough to defend."
And the Bullets, forced to respect Rice's ability to hit from deep, also were beat when he slid inside for shots in the lane.
"You hate to get beat by one guy, plain and simple," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "Rice just had a big-time game. You hate to give a guy like that easy baskets, and that's what we did."
Juwan Howard scored 23 points to lead the Bullets, with Chris Webber adding 22. The Bullets had a better night rebounding (50-36), better production from the bench (22-2) and more fast-break points (18-15). The Bullets just couldn't come away with the win.
"Give Charlotte credit," Howard said. "They hung in there and hit some tough shots down the stretch. They're a team that's well respected and they did a good job, especially Glen Rice."
Pub Date: 12/31/96