CLEVELAND, April 20 -- Calbert Cheaney scored five crucial points in the final three minutes Sunday to help lift the Washington Bullets into the playoffs for the first time in nine years with an 85-81 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Bullets (44-38) nosed out the Cavaliers (42-40) for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round matchup with the Chicago Bulls.
Washington ended the longest current playoff drought of any team. The Cavaliers blew an 11-point second-quarter lead and missed the playoffs for the first time since 1991. Chris Webber had 23 points and 17 rebounds and Rod Strickland added 19 points and nine assists for the Bullets, who got a big boost from the return of 7-foot-7 center Gheorghe Muresan. Muresan started the second half despite a back injury and had 12 points and eight rebounds. Terrell Brandon scored 28 points and Bobby Sura added 10 and 11 assists for the Cavaliers. But Sura missed a three-pointer and committed a key turnover in the final minute. Washington scored just 12 points in the second period and fell behind 44-35 at halftime. Webber movbed to forward when Muresan came on and scored 10 points in the third quarter as the Bullets cut the deficit to 66-64. Two free throws by Howard gave Washington the lead for good at 71-70 with 8:30 remaining. But the game was tense until the final minutes, when Cheaney stepped forward. A jumper by Ferry closed the deficit to 77-76 but Cheaney got loose underneath for a dunk with 2:43 left. Chris Mills' jumper again cut the deficit to one point, but Cheaney posted up Sura and converted a three- point play for an 82-78 edge with 1:31 to play.