Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Openers: NBA Exhibition Christens Kiel

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

For Openers: NBA Exhibition Christens Kiel

Article excerpt

Here are some firsts for the St. Louis record books:

The first professional sporting event - a National Basketball Association preseason game - in the new Kiel Center was won in overtime by the Washington Bullets, who beat the Chicago Bulls 131-124.

The first paying crowd numbered 14,153.

The first basket, a free throw, was scored by Scott Skiles of the Bullets at 7:44 p.m.

Welcome to a night of firsts at the new Kiel.

Jud Perkins, Kiel Center president, already had made a few passes around the arena even before the players broke in the court with its first sweat.

Perkins came to St. Louis from Madison Square Garden two years and nine months ago to usher in this new sports era in the city. Countless "dress rehearsals, dry runs and practices" later, opening night finally arrived.

Kiel officials had thought the christening would come with a hockey game between the Blues and their archrivals, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Two nights later, the Stanley Cup champs New York Rangers were supposed to roll into town. That game was expected to generate excitement after Mike Keenan jumped from the Rangers to the Blues in a messy separation a few months back.

Both games were expected to be sellouts. But the National Hockey League's labor strife postponed the start of the season.

The atmosphere Friday night for the Bulls-Bullets exhibition game was low-key by comparison. But the fans' intensity picked in the second half as they took a particular liking to 7-foot-7 Gheorge Muresan of the Bullets. "Come on Gheorge!" bellowed Phil Olano, of Imperial Mo.

Fans howled when the Bullets' Doug Overton grabbed and dragged down the Bulls' Toni Kukoc on a breakaway at 9 minutes 43 seconds of the fourth quarter. Fairly physical play for a preseason matchup.

The Bullets' Rex Chapman sent the game into overtime by sinking two free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining, making the score 117-117. When regulation ended, the Bullets starters were on the floor and so was Bulls' star Scottie Pippen. Who said this was a meaningless exercise?

The Bullets led 123-122 with 2:25 remaining in OT, then went on an 8-0 run. Chapman and Skiles hit successive 3-point shots and center Kevin Duckworth bulled inside for a follow-up basket, giving the Bullets a 131-122 lead. …

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