Milwaukee's Brian Winters, one of the NBA's best streak shooters, gunned down the Washington Bullets Tuesday night just when it seemed they were going to pull out a victory despite the absence of Elvin Hayes.
Hayes was ejected with 10:35 left in the second quarter after picking up two technicals, but the Bucks couldn't put Washington away them a Winters' marksmanship gave them a 136-135 overtime victory.
Winters hit the last three Milwaukee baskets, including a 20-foot bomb that handed the Bucks a 136-131 lead with 47 seconds left.
Late in the fourth quarter, he had banged in two quick jumpers, the last with 30 seconds to go, to put the Bucks ahead by two. But after Charles Johnson tied it at 124, Wintters missed a 20-footer at the buzzer and the game went into overtime.
"I wasn't happy with that last shot, not at all," said Winters. He made up for it by cutting around outside screens in overtime and not missing any of the resulting wide-open attempts.
His 29-point outburst, on 13-of-20 shooting, offset some splendid individual efforts by the Bullets, who tried valiantly to replace Hayes' 19-point average.
Wes Unseld took over the rebounding burden and pulled down 27, a season high that was only five short of his career best. He also had 18 points, one off his season high. And he added six assists in 47 minutes.
Greg Ballard pumped in 17 points, converting nine of 11 foul shots, and grabbed eight rebounds. Ballard shared Hayes' spot with Mitch Kupchak, who scored 13 points but could pull in just two rebounds with his still-weak right thumb.
And Johnson, the midseason free agent from Golden State, matched Winters basket for basket in the fourth quarter. He brought Washington back from a 12-point thirdperiod deficit to a short-lived one-point margin late in the last quarter.
The Bullets needed a hot hand in the late going to offset Milwaukee's sagging, double-teamming defense that was holding Bob Dandridge to 19 points on six of 22 accuracy.
While Hayes was in the game -- he had 10 points -- the Bucks' defense wasn't that effective. But it gradually forced the Bullets further out, leaving their guards open for shots. At one point, Johnson responded with three straight baskets, followed by a free throw, to prevent Milwaukee from pulling away. He had 13 points alone in the fourth period.
Washington also was able to stay in contention in part due to Marques Johnson's foul problems. Johnson, a sensational rookie, played only a minute of the third period and didn't get back in until five minutes were left in the fourth.
But he quickly made up for lost time with five points down the stretch, including a three-point play that gave Milwaukee a 120-118 lead, four points by Winters, four by Danridge and two by Johnson set the stage for Winters' final attempt.
He wasted away much of the last 15 seconds dribbling, but never got free for a clear shot as the Bullets helped Charles Johnson out by double-teamming the Milwaukee guard. his shot barely hit the rim.
It was a different story in overtime. Dave Meyers, who had 20 points, hit two free throws and Marques Johnson a corner jumper. Dandridge made a free throw and Charles Johnson a perimeter shot before Marques Johnson drove by Kupchak from the top of the key for a layup. He fouled out moments later with 23 points.
Charles Johnson kept the Bullets alive by hitting his final basket to pull them to within 130-129. Than the Bucks went to Winters, their man in the clutch.
He cut around a Kent Benson screen and banked in a 12-footer. Johnson missed two attempts and Winters swished a 15-footer from in front of the basket. Unseld tapped in a Tom Henderson miss but Winters refused to quit. He drifted far to the right of the basket behind another screen and popped in the 20-footer that insured the win.
"You have to guard him starting at half-court," said Charles Johnson. "He has unlimited range. I knew they were going to him but you need help with those screens.If you don't get it, it's impossible to stop him."
Without Hayes, the Bullets, who host San Antonio tonight in Capital Centre, needed a healthy Kupchak to make up for Hayes. But Kupchak to make up for Hayes. But Kupchak, thumb ligament operation, isn't anywhere near 100 percent yet.
"It's not Mitch's fault," said Motta. "He's not healthy yet and we have to wait until he is. We got down and I didn't know if we could come back. We did and then we couldn't stop Winters. That makes it even tougher to loose."