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  •   Bullets Rip 76ers, Move Ahead of Cavs

    By J.A. Adande
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Tuesday, April 15, 1997; Page B1

    PHILADELPHIA, April 14—The Washington Bullets came into tonight's game against the Philadelphia 76ers with ailing players. The way things degenerated into a shallow attempt to make highlight shows and reach statistical milestones, they were lucky to escape with not only a 131-110 victory but no further injuries.

    In the grand scheme of things, the most important development was that the Bullets (41-38) took sole possession of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, moving one game ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost to the Charlotte Hornets.

    Of pressing concern to the Bullets was the back injury center Gheorghe Muresan suffered during practice this morning that kept him out of this game and could possibly sideline him for several days. Also, reserve guard Tim Legler missed the game with a stomach virus.

    Of historical significance, but certainly worthy of an asterisk for the method in which it was accomplished, was Philadelphia rookie guard Allen Iverson's 40 points. It was the fifth consecutive time he has scored 40 or more points, extending his rookie record. However, it took a 76er foul and three timeouts in the final 61 seconds of this blowout game for him to reach it.

    After a lackluster start, the Bullets put together a 10-2 run to close the first half with a 58-49 lead. The reserves played a large role in pushing the Bullets to the victory. Swingman Tracy Murray scored 20 points, guard Jaren Jackson scored eight and guard Chris Whitney had eight points and nine assists.

    "We got busy when we had to get busy," Coach Bernie Bickerstaff said.

    They led by 11 points after three, then went on a 21-8 run at the start of the fourth. As the lead ballooned to 24 points, the Bullets looked as if they were auditioning for "SportsCenter."

    All of the fast-break dunks also helped forwards Chris Webber and Juwan Howard score 27 points apiece. Webber had 21 rebounds to tie his career high. The Bullets wound up with their highest point total of the season.

    The 76ers made no attempt to get back on defense in the fourth quarter. With such careless play (both teams shot better than 63 percent and committed a total of 15 turnovers in the quarter), it was a ripe scenario for injuries, but fortunately there was none.

    The only harm done was to the integrity of the game and Iverson's record.

    The 76ers (21-58) are a team of questionable motives these days. With the team heading nowhere and forward Derrick Coleman convalescing with yet another injury (this one a bruised left calf), the only goal left is trying to get the rookie-of-the-year award for Iverson.

    His recent scoring binge, which included a 50-point outburst in Cleveland Saturday, hadn't done anything for the Sixers, who lost all of the games and have dropped eight straight overall.

    And it hadn't done anything to entice fans to CoreStates Center. Tonight's attendance, far short of the announced 12,220, paled in comparison to the sellout crowd watching professional wrestling next door at the Spectrum. And the action here was only slightly more legitimate.

    Despite the insurmountable deficit, the 76ers called three timeouts and committed an unnecessary foul to stop the clock in the final 1:01.

    Iverson had 36 points when the Sixers called a timeout with 27.8 seconds remaining. Iverson was fouled with 26.1 left and made one free throw to give him 37. Then, despite a 23-point deficit, they fouled to stop the clock. Whitney made two free throws.

    Then Philadelphia called another timeout and even the home crowd booed this pursuit.

    The Bullets decided that if the it meant so much to Iverson and the Sixers, they would let him have it. They stood motionless on defense and let Iverson cast away a three-pointer that swished to bring his point total to 40.

    "We wanted to salvage something out of the game with us being so far behind," Sixers Coach Johnny Davis said. "That was Bernie's decision not to play defense on our last possession. Even with that, Allen still had to hit the three and he did."

    Iverson seemed a little embarrassed by the situation.

    "My teammates and coaching staff wanted me to get it," Iverson said. "I'm saying, 'Let it go, it has to end sometime.' But my coaching staff and my teammates said I was so close, so go ahead and get it."

    The Bullets seemed more annoyed than angered by the blatant attempt to get the points for Iverson.

    "Hey, whatever," guard Rod Strickland said. "I think if you do something, you should do it in the flow. If it happens naturally [fine]. You probably shouldn't go out of your way with it."

    "It did kind of get ridiculous at the end," Webber said. "It really didn't offend me. Thirty-seven points were legitimate, so we'll give him 40."

    © Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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