Phil Chenier made two pressure jump shots in the final 1:02 and substitute Gus Bailey provided the key defensive play in the last nine seconds tonight to lead the Washington Bullets to a heart-stopping 111-107 victory over the New York Knicks.
The victory, the second in their last three games, was the first for the Bullets on the road in six tries this season and improved their overall record to 5-7.
Chenier finished with 22 points, the most he has scored since returning from back surgery last February. He had 16 in the last quarter, but he said the four he scored in the final 62 seconds were the sweetest in a long, long time.
The Bullets had just blown a 17-point second quarter lead and a 12-point fourth-quarter bulge and led by only one point, at 104-103 with 1:02 left.
The offense was helter-skelter, but Chenier worked himself free and drilled a 15-footer with Michael Ray Richardson's hand in his face.
Ray Williams' jumper kept the Knicks' hopes alive at 106-105.
The Bullet set offense broke down on the ensuing possession, but an improvising Chenier worked free from 18-feet out front. With Williams hanging onto him he scored on a jumper with 30 seconds left.
A layup by Richardson closed the gap to one point again with 23 seconds left. The Knicks had to foul to get the ball and, at nine seconds, Williams grabbed Kevin Porter, who made only one of two free throws for a 109-107 lead.
The Knicks called timeout to set up a play and Bullet Coach Dick Motta used the opportunity to put in defensive specialist Bailey in place of Porter.
Richardson took the inbounds pass, but instead of getting the ball to 7-foot center Bill Cartwright, who had scored 23 of his 29 points in the second half, he tried to take the ball all the way in.
Bailey stayed on Richardson's hip and tipped the ball as Richardson tried a layup. Elvin Hayes grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Joe C. Meriweather. Hayes made the two free throws for the margin of victory.
"It's nice to have a Gus Bailey," said Motta. "If I need offense in a close game I'll go with Phil and Kevin, but if I need defense, I'll go with Gus."
Chenier said this was the best game he played this season, "for a number of reasons -- we won our first on the road, I hit two key baskets down the stretch and I felt good."
"Those were hard shots, but he stuck them right in their faces," Motta said.
For a number of reasons, this was the best overall team performance, as well. Motta's substitutions were well-timed.
He started the fourth quarter and Rober Phegley replacing Chenier and didn't bring Carter back until the final two minutes -- just in time for him to win the game.
"I needed an experienced shooter in there at the end," Motta said. "I would have gone with Phil sooner, but Roger was doing okay."
Bob Dandridge played a steady, 19-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist game. Porter played a solid 40 minutes and scored a season high 19 points. He added seven assists and had only one turnover. The Bullets committed only nine turnovers, their lowest total this season.
"Our last three games have been very satisfying," said Motta.
"I feel a lot more comfortable now," said Porter. "Things are coming along fine. I'm just going out there and do what I feel comfortable doing. I think that's what Dick wants me to do and by doing that, we seem to play better as a team."
The Bullets got off 104 shots tonight, only the third time they have taken more than 100 shots in a game this season.