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Bullets Can't Get It Done, Swept Away By Bulls In Tough Contest
30 April 1997. Chicago Bulls 96, Washington Bullets 95 (record: 44-41)
Game leaders: Strickland (24 points), Webber (8 rebounds), Strickland (9 assists)
And thus ends the final chapter in the history of the Washington Bullets. The name will be no more very soon, but the Bullets went down fighting to the defending NBA champions. This mouse roared back at the Bulls, but it did little to intimidate them.
By making the playoffs, the Bullets virtually guaranteed that their team history would end on a loss. But you had at least hoped that it wouldn't end in a sweep by the Bulls.
Washington Post Coverage In Their Final Shot, Bullets Just Miss Bullets post-game locker room quotes Bulls post-game locker room quotes With Webber Out, Bulls Get Back In Pippen Has Final Answer At USAir, Plenty Of Name Dropping Fans Mark The End Of An Era Notebook: Stern Talk Takes Place At Arena Time To Say Au Revoir (Tony Kornheiser column)
This was anything but a domination by the Bulls. The Bullets had two games within reach, but couldn't nail down a win. The Bulls experience overcame the youthful exuberance and talent of the Bullets.
But the Bullets sure did try. The home crowd was the most pro-Bullets crowd I've ever heard at the arena (at least, what I could hear through the TV). Even Michael Jordan got booed vociferously during the introductions, and he was often booed when he even touched the ball. That emotional energy at the start pumped the Bullets out to a 14-2 lead, as they made their first 6 shots, but then reality set back in and the Bulls eventually tied it at 18.
The game seesawed a bit up until halftime, when the Bullets found themselves only down by 2 points. But they had committed 11 turnovers in the first half, repeating many of the mistakes of the first game. At the start of the third quarter, they didn't do much to close the gap, but then Tracy Murray came alive and scored 13 points in 7 minutes with a range of amazing scoring plays (e.g., dunks, jump shots while being fouled).
The Bullets continued to wear on the Bulls, getting up 90-81 late in the fourth quarter. Then, CWebb fouled out with just over 3 minutes remaining, and the Bullets offense (and defense) were never the same. Jordan got hot with 10 points in that stretch, and then came Pippen's amazing recovery with 7 seconds left.
The Bullets had one shot, but Cheaney missed the rim on the 20-foot shot. However, he was fouled on the shot. Jordan snuck a slap on Cheaney's left elbow as Cheaney shot, causing his shot to go off. The refs were either afraid to call it or they didn't see it. I didn't see it until I saw the replay.
Still, it was an impressive effort, but the Bullets couldn't come up with the win like they did in early April, when they held off a late charge by the Bulls. But it's the type of game that a team can build around. They hung tough with a very good team, not like an eighth seed but more like a top 4 seed. And the way the Bullets played down the stretch, that may not be an unrealistic comparison.
It was especially nice to hear both Jordan and Rodman calling the Bullets the "team of the future." That's a lot to live up to, but they've got a shot at doing it. It may take a few years, but the big pieces seem to be there. However, there's a big difference between potential and reality. I hope to see this team step forward, and I think they will. Let's not concentrate on the other not-so-good alternatives.
wtf 1 May 1997
|The Hype Builds Toward A Showdown At USAir Arena||Assessing The Damage And Promise In The Aftermath|