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Suns Set Without Win, Bullets Shine In Win
8 Janaury 1997. Washington Bullets 115, Phoenix Suns 113 (OT) (record: 17-15)
Game leaders: Howard (24 points), Webber (9 rebounds), Strickland (12 assists)
It took 18 tries, but the Bullets finally got it right. It was the third-longest active team-to-team domination in the league at the time - the Suns had beaten the Bullets 17 straight times. The last time the Bullets won, the Suns had a rookie from California on their roster named Kevin Johnson. As Johnson said after the game: "I thought I was going to out of the league without losing to them again."
There had been several close calls the past couple of years, but the Bullets folded in the end each time. And it nearly happened again. The Bullets trailed much of the game, but finally played enough defense in the fourth quarter to have a 3 point lead with just over 10 seconds left. The following sequence was bizarre, but luckily the game only went into overtime. That sequence included:
Home Court Disadvantage? The Bullets are one of the best teams on the road in the league, but they're barely above .500 at home. There are multiple theories as to what may be up.
In overtime, the Suns get a 3 point lead, but Webber erases it with a clutch 3-pointer with 1:19 left. (I hate to say it, but when our starting rotation is on the floor, as it was in overtime, Webber is this team's best 3-point shooter. Scary thought.) The heros aren't done, though.
- Webber fouling Danny Manning on a drive to the basket (the Bullets had a foul to give). Mannning scored (it was the correct call - there was no subsequent dribble, Manning didn't travel). Then, with a chance to tie the game, Manning misses the free throw - badly.
- Webber gets fouled going for the missed free throw (a holding call). Webber makes both pressure-packed free throws. (Amazing!) Back to a 3 point lead.
- Kevin Johnson nails a 25-foot 3-pointer to tie the game. He just stops his dribble and shoots. Rod Strickland was playing Johnson at the 3-point line. This sends the game to overtime.
Juwan Howard hits a game-winner with 15.9 seconds left, and the Bullets were leading 113-111. But Kevin Johnson comes down, drives the lane, and gets a foul call on Strickland. It was a bad call, IMO, about the only one I can remember from an otherwise excellently officiated game - Strickland cleanly stripped the ball from Johnson. Johnson hit both free throws.
Then, the win came from an unexpected source - at least, this season. Strickland drove around a pick at the top of the key and drew Calbert Cheaney's defender to shut down the lane. Strickland dished to Cheaney, who hit the 18-foot baseline jumper - SWISH! nothing but net! And the crowd roared in celebration. Cheaney had a smile a mile wide. The Suns failed to get a good shot off before time expired.
Said Cheaney (who scored 14 points in one of his best games of the year) of the shot: "I just shot it. There's a little nervousness involved. You do what you do all the time in practice. As soon as it left my hand, I knew it was in." So did I.
Webber was 1 rebound and 1 assist away from a triple double, and Strickland was 2 rebounds away froma triple double. And Murray was strong off the bench with 16 points. A decent effort, though it shouldn't have been this difficult.
Lastly, it was sad to see Rex Chapman getting injured again. He injured his left knee in a collision with Harvey Grant early in the game, then left for good when he sprained his left ankle in the second quarter. This man is a walking time-bomb, and playing in USAir Arena always seems to get him injured.
wtf 9 January 1997
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