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Bullets Frozen Out In Final Minutes Of Minnesota Matchup

4 April 1997. Minnesota Timberwolves 97, Washington Bullets 95 (record: 38-36)
Game leaders: Howard, Strickland (21 points), Webber (12 rebounds), Strickland (10 assists)

It was the night after an impressive victory over the Bulls, and the Bullets could have been candidates for a let-down. But they played the Timberwolves tough and built a solid lead going late into the game. With 2 minutes left and an 8-point lead, you'd figure the game was won.

Rod Stokes The Fire
Rod Strickland has been one of the keys behind the late season resurgence of the Bullets. As J.A. Adande of the Washington Post notes, Rod is the type of player that is not easily controlled or understood, but he is always successful.
Think again.

The Bullets led 95-87 with 2:16 left. Then, it all fell apart. Here is the summary by the Washington Post's J.A. Adande, provided in the Saturday, April 5 edition of the Post (necessary because I didn't watch the game):

"Then Chris Webber was called for goaltending on a layup attempt by Stephon Marbury. Rod Strickland turned the ball over in heavy traffic, Webber fouled Sam Mitchell and Mitchell made both free throws.

"Bullets swingman Tracy Murray missed a three-pointer. After a timeout, Mitchell missed a jumper but [Kevin] Garnett got the rebound and scored.

"Then Calbert Cheaney made the same mistake Strickland made, getting caught in the air with nowhere to go and a pack of Timberwolves surrounding him.

"Marbury drove to the basket and was fouled by Webber with 49.4 seconds left. Marbury made both free throws and the score was tied.

"The Bullets called time out and got a perfect play, with Strickland finding Webber on a pick-and-roll play. But Kevin Garnett blocked Webber's dunk attempt and Minnesota had the ball with 30.9 seconds left. The Bullets were on shaky ground defensively: both Webber and Juwan Howard had five personal fouls.

"The Timberwolves went to former Bullet Tom Gugliotta, who was guarded by Harvey Grant. Grant knocked the ball out of Gugliotta's hands, but Gugliotta got it back and made a jumper along the baseline that put Minnesota ahead by two with 16.8 seconds remaining.

"The Bullets got the ball to Strickland, who drove to the basket. [H]e was knocked down, but no foul was called. Strickland sat on the floor in disbelief as the officials ruled the ball had gone out of bounds, last touched by the Bullets.

"They fouled Sam Mitchell, who missed both free throws. The ball was kocked out of bounds by Webber. But Garnett traveled out of bounds before he inbounded the ball, giving the Bullets one more possession with 4.2 seconds remaining.

"They inbounded to Strickland, who dribbled downcourt and fired up a three-pointer that bounced off the rim."

Game over, man. A game the Bullets should have won instead went to the Wolves. For once, the Bullets were the team that failed to execute down the stretch. Recently, they've been able to make the plays when it counted. However, Cleveland also lost that night, so the Bullets remained tied with the Cavs for the final playoff spot.

wtf 11 April 1997

<== Bullets Ratchet Up Intensity And Gore Bulls In Possible Playoff Prelude Defense Was Optional As Bullets Practice Winning Against Boston  ==>

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