Chris Webber returned to the lineup with power and passion Tuesday night, scoring a season-high 36 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and going toe-to-toe with Charles Barkley in Washington's 124-112 victory over Houston.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Wizards, part of a 3-5 skid while Webber was out with a strained right shoulder. Washington also returned to the .500 mark in its uphill attempt to reach the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Rockets lost their third straight and fell below the .500 mark, although they would still qualify for the Western Conference playoffs if they started today.
Webber was 13-for-24 from the field and 9-for-13 from the free throw line. He also had three blocks and three steals, and drew a foul on Brent Price by diving to the floor for a loose ball late in the third quarter.
Webber and Barkley exchanged grabs, bumps and words during the game. Barkley had 16 points and nine rebounds before fouling out with 2:56 left. As he left the court, Barkley kept talking and drew his second technical foul.
Rod Strickland had 31 points and 15 assists for Washington, while Tracy Murray added 27 points, including four 3-pointers.
Kevin Willis led the Rockets with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Hakeem Olajuwon had 19 points and 10 rebounds in his 1,000th game for the team.
Webber scored six straight points a jumper, a fast-break layup and a dunk and blocked Barkley's layup attempt during a 17-8 run to start the second half.
The Wizards were also helped by a couple of buzzer-beating shots. Strickland hit a running 55-footer at the end of the first half to finish off an 18-4 run that put the Wizards ahead for good, and Darvin Ham's tip-in at the end of the third quarter made it 91-77.
The Rockets were unable to cut the lead to single digits until Eddie Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 1:10 left.
Notes: Olajuwon became only the eighth player in NBA history to play 1,000 or more games with one team. The all-time leader is John Havlicek, who played 1,270 games with the Boston Celtics. ... The Rockets are the first team in NBA history to have three 1,000-game veterans on one team. Clyde Drexler (1,065) and Eddie Johnson (1,169) are the others. Barkley (993) and Kevin Willis (994) should join the club in the next few weeks. ... Olajuwon is also just two games behind Calvin Murphy's franchise record of 1,002 games played for the Rockets. ... Upset over being called for a foul early in the third quarter, Drexler took it out on a box of Kleenex by swatting it into the face of a radio announcer on press row. ... Washington forward Juwan Howard missed his seventh straight game with a sprained left ankle. He said it could be two more weeks before he returns. ... The Rockets haven't been below .500 this late in the season since 1990.
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