The Washington Bullets outscored Phoenix, 20-2, in the final 4 1/2 minutes tonight, overcame a 12-point deficit and beat the Suns, 109-103.
Phil Chenier, who played poorly for the first three quarters and was finally benched, came back in the final period and sank three 17-foot jumpers to put the Bullets in the lead.
Chenier had 10 points in the fourth period as the Bullets increased their Central Division lead over idle Houston to one game.
They will play the Kings on Friday night in Kansas City.
After going two for 17 against Golden State on Tuesday night, Chenier began tonight by missing 13 of his first 18 shots. He was shooting air balls and bricks. Coach Dick Motta finallu sat Chenier down midway through the third period with the Bullets down by 10.
"I was playing bad," Chenier said. "My timing was off and I was forcing shots. I lost all of my concentration. I passed when I should have shot and shot when should have passed.
"I had lost my touch with the game," Chenier added. "I made up my mind that when I got back in I wouldn't force things. I'd just take my time."
Motta gave Chenier the call with 9:14 left and the Bullets down, 93-83.
"I wanted him to sit for awhile," Motta said. "He was playing badly and I knew that if he doesn't come through, we don't win. He came through like the shooter he is."
Chenier drilled in a 20-footer a minute after he returned to cut the lead to eight points.
The Phoenix lead was later shaved to six, Elvin Hayes sinking two jumpers around a Dick Van Arsdale basket. But the Suns ran off six straight points for a 101-89 lead with 4:38 left.
They didn't score again until Paul Westphal drove in with 18 seconds to go.
After Alvan Adams' 15-footer gave the Suns the 101-89 lead, Hayes hit two free throws and Chenier followed that with two free throws. Mitch Kupchap made two consecutive baskets followed by a Hayes turnaround and Chenier's three long jumpers.
Chenier's first tied the score at 101 with 1:30 left. Keitch Erickson missed at the other end of the floor, Hayes grabbing the rebound. Chenier hit again to put the Bullets ahead, 103-101.
Westphal missed for Phoenix, Hayes again getting the rebound and Chenier again hitting the jumper. The score was 105-101 with 30 seconds left.
Westphal broke the Phoenix drought after he and his mates ahd missed eight straight times, but Unseld sank two free throws and Kupchak added a dunk as the game ended.
"That was a nice game, really nice," Motta said. "What really impressed me was our defense down the stretch. We were really tough."
Chenier finished with 21 points as he made nine of 25 from the field. Hayes, who played the fourth period with five personal fouls, had 22 points and 16 rebounds. Kupchak, playing once again at center and forward, also had 22 and added 13 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Down the stretch, Motta went with a lineup of Kupchak, Hayes and Unseld up front and Chenier and Bob Weiss in the backcourt. He put Harry Wright back in for a two-minute stretch, but then went back with Weiss.
Kevin Grevey had a tough time at small forward, going only 1-6 and Leonard Gray was in foul trouble, so Motta was forced to play Kupchak at small forward.
With Hayes on the bench most of the third period, Kupchak played big forward and produced nine points.
Westphal, who signed a new multi-year contract with the Suns earlier today, scored 12 points in the first quarter on some fancy moves and finished with 29 for the game.
Phoenix led by six at the half, but was never quite able to break away.
Washington has won seven of its last nine road games and is 3-2 on the current trip. The Bullets have won 17 of their last 21 games overall.
Phoenix had won two in a row and 10 of its last 14 going into the contest.