The Bullets may have changed Dick Motta's textbook coaching strategy today.
Anytime this season that they've had a last shot to win or tie a game, Motta has called time-out, something he always has done in his NBA career. In every instance but one this campaign, the coach's tactics have failed to produce a basket.
Today, the Bullets got the ball with eight seconds left, didn't call time-out and wound up beating the New Jersey Nets 99-98 on Tom Henderson's jump shot from the foul line at the buzzer.
"I decided not to have them a call a time-out," Motta said. "Didn't want one, no way. They already were in the flow and we got as good a shot as we would have after a time-out.
"I had called a time-out just before that and we got the shot we wanted and it didn't go in. I had a feeling Tommy's shot would be good. Even when he was dribbing up court, I was running with him, heading for the dressing room."
Last Tuesday against Denver, a late time-out failed to produce even a shot in a Bullet loss.
"I had a funny feeling that game," Motta said. "It just didn't feel right in the huddle. I didn't think it would work. It was different today."
The result also was different for the Bullets from the first time these teams met, in December at Capital Centre. The Nets won then, 106-95 on the strength of 30 points and 17 assists from Kevin Porter and a string of 14 unanswered points in the fourth period.
Porter was much more human this time - 16 points and nine assists, along with five personal fouls - and Washington used a point burst of its own to pull out the victory.
Trailing, 97-89, with four minutes left, the Bullets ran off eight straight points. The last six were by Mitch Kupchak, who entered the game and quickly produced a tie at 97 with 1:47 to go.
A foul shot by Darnell Hillman 16 seconds later put the Nets in front again. Each club then messed up scoring opportunities before the Bullets called time-out with 46 seconds remaining.
Motta requested a play that got the ball to Bobby Dandridge in the low post. He had a good shot, but it hit the front of the rim. The Nets came down and Porter would up taking a double-pump jump shot while falling forward in the lane. It hit the glass and never touched the rim.
Dandridge pulled in the rebound and hit Henderson with a pass at half-court.
"I looked up at the clock and it said five seconds," Henderson said. "I wanted to get it in shooting range, the foul line.
"I didn't want a time-out. This was more spontaneous. I knew I had to get off a shot. It was a matter of getting close enough. I didn't hear the buzzer, so I kept getting closer."
Henderson shed himself of Porter by faking right, where he figured Porter would be leaning, and cutting to the left of the foul line. The ball went in as the buzzer sounded.
"I didn't care how we won it," Henderson said. "On certain nights, certain people are going to win it for us. It was just my night."
The Bullets seemed glad Motta had not stopped play after Dandridge's rebound.
"I think the Nets were expecting a time-out," Elvin Hayes said. "We caught them off guard. They relaxed so much on defense, he could have driven to the basket if he had had time."
Motta also hesitated calling a time-out because of the absence of Phil Chenier, who pulled a hamstring muscle in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the game. He usually is the man Motta wants to take pressure shots.
Henderson's shot ended what had been a game dominated more by the natics of Net coach Kevin Loughery than the players.
Loughery was hit with one technical - his 16th of the season. Later he said he was protesting the game when he thought the officials and charged a foul to the wrong Net player, Bernard King instead of Howard Porter. He said the officials "definitely cost us the game." After the contest. Loughery withdrew the protest.
When the officials could get Loughery off the court and back on the bench, the Nets treated their fans to three impressive quarters of basketball.
They were able to stay on top despite foul troubles that forced them to play much of the fourth period without Kevin Porter, King (14 points, 13 rebounds) and center George Johnson (14 points, 13 rebounds, seven blocked shots). King and Porter picked up their fifth fouls in the third quarter.
The Bullets benefited from a rare instance of having an advantage at the foul line. They made 27 of 34 to the Nets' 12 ot 18. And, after the intermission, they played better defense on King, who wasn't allowed to work one-on-one down low as freely as he had early. "It's tough playing a team like the Nets," Hayes said. "They don't have a set pattern you can pick up. They are free out there, because they don't have any playoff pressure. It's nice when you are that loose."
Henderson, at least, also felt loose.
"I didn't think about it," he said about his final shot. "I never thought about passing it off. Why should I? I can put it in when I have to."