In two games against Miami this week, Washington Bullets forward Juwan Howard has shown that he would have been a nice fit with the Heat. And in those same two games, the Heat has shown that it really doesn't need Howard to win.
In scoring a season-high 33 points, Howard tried to carry the load on a night when Chris Webber had one of his worst games of the season. But Miami was too strong in last night's 103-92 win before a sellout crowd at Baltimore Arena, completing its sweep of two games with the Bullets this week.
It was the third straight loss for the Bullets, who -- after improving to four games over .500 a week ago -- fell to 19-18. The Bullets now play their next four games on the road, beginning tonight in Boston.
The Heat (26-10) won its third straight game and took a half-game lead over the New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division.
Alonzo Mourning led the way with 34 points for a Miami team that is without guard Dan Majerle (injured back) and forward Kurt Thomas (sprained right ankle). Miami is 18-5 on the road -- best in the league -- and 16-1 when leading after three quarters on the road.
"We've challenged ourselves all season," Mourning said. "We got guys hurt, we've had our backs up against the wall at times, and guys have stepped up.
"We showed that this evening. It's the second game in two nights and some of the guys are a little sick or a little sore. But the determination we have is getting us through."
Webber, coming off a 33-point, 10-rebound, seven-assist game at Chicago on Tuesday, would just as soon forget about last night's game. Before fouling out with 3: 04 left in the fourth quarter, Webber had hit just two of 13 shots. His four points were a season low.
"Juwan did everything he could; the team did as well. I just have to show up one of these times we play them," said Webber, who hit six of 21 shots against the Heat in Monday's 98-95 defeat. "I
need to take advantage of the oppor
tunities I get. I'm really frustrated. I feel the team needed something from me."
Webber had one basket in the first quarter, and one in the second -- and that's it. And still, when he stepped to the line with 4: 24 left in the game and the Bullets trailing 88-84, Webber had an opportunity to pull the Bullets -- who trailed by 14 in the third quarter -- to within two.
But Webber, shooting just 51.9 percent from the line going into the game, missed both free throws. On the other end, Miami guard Tim Hardaway scored on a jumper, and the Heat had a 90-84 lead.
The Bullets never got closer than five from there, that coming after a jumper by Howard with 3: 23 left made it 91-86. Mourning scored on a layup, Voshon Lenard (21 points; 5-for-5 from three-point range) hit a three-pointer and the Heat had a 96-86 lead -- and the victory.
"When Webber fouled out [with 3: 04 left], some of us held our heads down because we were missing a big part of our offense," Howard said. "As a team, we just didn't step up in that situation."
The Heat's Pat Riley, one of the elite coaches in the NBA, has managed to get his team to rally while short-handed. Mourning is always tough, and he scored 25 points in the first half while getting Gheorghe Muresan and Lorenzo Williams into foul trouble.
"It's tough to defend him," Williams said of Mourning. "He always heads toward the basket. And he's so strong, that he gets to the line a lot of times."
Players such as Lenard and Isaac Austin stepped up for the Heat last night. Those two might not have gotten playing time with other teams, but Lenard (8-for-11 from the field) and Austin (11 points, five rebounds) play to their fullest potential under Riley.
"This team just doesn't feel like they are going to lose," Riley said.
In the off-season, Riley makes top dollar as a motivational speaker. A coach who uses any angle to give his team an edge, this week he used an ad that appeared in The Sun as motivation.
The ad, placed by the Bullets, ran several times this week and read: "This Friday It's revenge! Watch Juwan turn off the Heat." The ad was faxed to Miami, then to Baltimore, where it wound up in Riley's hands. He mentioned it to the team before the game.
"You don't need that as motivation," Hardaway said. "That's motivation enough."
Said Mourning, who scored 50 points against the Bullets last season: "He says some very inspirational stuff. When he walks in here everything gets silent. He is our leader and has all of our respect."
Now the Bullets, who are just 10-9 at home, play their next four on the road. They have played well on the road (9-9), and will have to do the same over the next week to stay above .500.
"We have to go out with intensity over these next few games," Howard said of the trip that continues next week with stops in New York, Orlando and Atlanta. "We have to bring our game on every night. We went 4-2 on our road trip in December. We need to go 4-0 on this one."
NOTES: Shooting guard Tim Legler (torn knee ligament) was cleared yesterday to practice with the team, and is expected to be activated by the end of the month. Legler will not travel with the team on its four-game trip but will practice when the team returns. The second of Bullets' four games in Baltimore this season was a sellout. The other two are against New Jersey on Feb. 14 and Dallas on March 29. The Heat is 8-2 in its past 10 games against the Bullets.
Opponent: Boston Celtics
Site: FleetCenter, Boston
Time: 7: 30
Radio: WWRC (980 AM)
Outlook: Boston is coming off a 102-94 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday night. G David Wesley (16.2 ppg) is the leading scorer for the Celtics, who have the third-worst record in the league at 9-26. The Bullets lost to the Heat last night at Baltimore Arena. In the only other meeting between the teams this season, the Bullets won, 106-92, at USAir Arena on Nov. 16.
Pub Date: 1/18/97