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Riding the Bullets Bench April

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Bullets Ratchet Up Intensity And Gore Bulls In Possible Playoff Prelude

3 April 1997. Washington Bullets 110, Chicago Bulls 102 (record: 38-35)
Game leaders: Strickland (26 points), Muresan (13 rebounds), Strickland (14 assists)

The hype was certainly there. The Bulls visited the White House prior to the game, as is customary for a pro league champion for the previous year. However, most had penciled this game in as a win for the Bulls. The Bullets might challenge, but they couldn't possibly win, could they?

Game Multimedia
Courtesy of ESPNet Sportszone.
  • Strickland dishes to Muresan (QuickTime/AVI).
  • Strickland drives by Pippen (QuickTime/AVI).
  • Strickland gives Bickerstaff his credit (WAV/RealAudio).
    And post-game quotes, from the Washington Post.
  • The Bullets had different opinions.

    Using their advantages in size and strength at center (Muresan) and quickness at point guard (Strickland), the Bullets exploited those weaknesses in the Bulls. They scored 34 points each in the first and fourth quarters and served notice on the Bulls that they're just getting started in coming together as a team. Strickland had 26 points (on 10 of 15 shooting), 7 rebounds, and 14 assists, while Muresan netted 24 points (on 11 of 16 shooting) and 13 rebounds (5 offensive). This more than made up for Webber's 6 of 18 shooting. Howard and Webber each had 5 assists.

    The Bullets got out strong in the first quarter (which I missed, because of the awful traffic getting into the arena). But about halfway through the second quarter, the Bulls took control and held the lead through the third quarter.

    The Bulls had an 86-81 lead with 9:09 left, but the Bullets retook the lead with 6 straight points. Then, with the score tied with 5:14 left, the Bullets then ran off 6 more points and forced a Chicago timeout with 3:58.

    Chicago came out smoking, with a Pippen 3-pointer and a Jordan jumper in less than 30 seconds, and then it was time for a Bullets timeout, nursing a 1-point lead. From there, the Bulls shooting went cold and the Bullets ran off 7 straight points for a 106-98 lead that had the house rockin'. The win was just some free throws away down the stretch.

    My, How They've Grown
    Michael Wilbon, sports columnist for the Washington Post, assesses how far the Bullets have come in the last two months under coach Bernie Bickerstaff's tutelage.
    The Bulls made no excuses for their performance tonight. Even without Dennis Rodman in the lineup, the Bulls shouldn't have been outrebounded by the Bullets 46-29. But that shows how active the Bullets were in this game.

    The performances for the Bullets were solid. In the offensive oriented first half (when the Bullets led 63-58 at halftime), Strickland had 12 of his 14 assists. But mucho kudos goes to Calbert Cheaney, who harassed Jordan all night with his defense and worked hard enough on offense to keep Jordan from resting. Yeah, Jordan scored 34 points, but Cheaney was challenging and in Jordan's face all night long. Jordan hit some amazing fall-away jumpers in the second and third quarters, even with good defense in his face, but Jordan was forced to take the fall-aways because Cheaney wouldn't let him drive by.

    This win regains the eighth seed for the Bullets, as they remain tied with Cleveland. The Indiana Pacers lost to the Miami Heat last night, meaning that the Pacers are now 3 games off the pace for the final playoff spot. And the Bullets, who have won 6 straight, are now only 2 games behind the Orlando Magic for the seventh playoff spot with 9 games (including 1 head-to-head) remaining.

    Bring it all on.

    wtf 4 April 1997

    <== Rubber Meets The Road As The Bullets Storm By The Pacers, Grab Eighth Place Bullets Frozen Out In Final Minutes Of Minnesota Matchup  ==>

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