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Indiana Folds Shop Against Hungry Bullets Team; Two Games Now Left
16 April 1997. Washington Bullets 109, Indiana Pacers 90 (record: 42-38)
Game leaders: Strickland (34 points), Webber (12 rebounds), Strickland (13 assists)
Last night, I said goodbye to USAir Arena as the home of the Bullets. It's probably the last Bullets game I will see there. I won't see tomorrow night's game there, and it's doubtful I'll see any first round action there, either.
What a game to watch. Indiana briefly made a game of it, but no matter how bad the Bullets looked in the first half (outside of the outstanding performances of Strickland and Howard, who had 39 of the Bullets' 49 first half points), the Pacers looked that much worse.
Who Da Man? That would be Strickland. All his teammates agree. I think the fans would agree. He's the MVP of this team, the glue that makes this season-ending run possible. Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser points out that the main man, at least for getting things started on the court, is Rod.
Last night was the Rod Strickland show. He abused whoever was guarding him, though he got most of his points against former teammate Mark Jackson. He was 11 of 18 from the field, 12 of 14 from the line, for 34 points. But through all of that, he also found time to dish out 13 assists to his teammates.
Howard also shined, going 11 of 18 for his 25 points, 20 of which came in the first half. CWebb took over in the third, adding 13 to his anemic first half total of 4. He finished with 20 points.
Also big in the stat column: the Bullets had 9 team turnovers (including only 1 for Strickland), and generated 22 points off 14 Indiana turnovers.
Lastly, the Bullets got a surprise when Lorenzo Williams was activated from IR before the game. He will be used sparingly, in emergencies, but with Muresan out, this counts. The Bullets cut Ashraf Amaya to make room for Williams. Amaya has a guaranteed contract and will be paid through the end of the season.
The race for the final playoff spot is down to Washington and Cleveland. And if the teams are tied at the end of the season, Cleveland will now hold the advantage in the tiebreaker. The magic number is 2: any combination of Washington wins and Cleveland losses equaling 2 will put the Bullets in the playoffs. Ideally, the Bullets win against Orlando (who isn't playing for playoff positioning) and Cleveland loses to Detroit (who is playing for playoff positioning) on Friday night, and Sunday's game is moot.
But if not, tune in on Sunday on NBC to see this matchup. Hopefully, it will be enough of a draw to get wide coverage nationwide, even though I only believe it was scheduled as a regional broadcast. We'll see.
wtf 17 April 1997
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