Elvin Hayes made two free throws with three seconds remaining in overtime tonight to salvage, 115-113, for the Washington Bullets a game they seemingly had clinched much earlier over the Cleveland Cavailers.
The Bullets blew a nine-point lead in the final 1:54 of regulation to send the game into the extra period. They blew a six-point lead in the final 1:13 of the overtime before finally pulling out the victory, only their fourth in the last 11 games. Midway in the contest, they squandered a 15-point lead.
"If we had lost this one, it would have been very discouraging," said a drained Coach Dick Motta.
Hayes scored 25 points, collected 14 rebounds, blocked five shots, had there assists and two steals for the night. And he appeared to slam the door in the Cavaliers' faced when he slamdunked a basket after a nifty pass from Bob Dandridge to give the Bullets a 100-91 lead inside two minutes to play in regulation.
The Cavaliers, winners of their last 10 in a row at the Coliseum, wouldn't quit. They threw a zone press at the Bullets and the turnovers started coming. The Bullets got six more possessions after Hayes' dunk and turned the ball over on four of them -- all by Dandridge.
Dandridge was not totally at fault on any of the errors. The Bullets looked to him to break the Cleveland press and Dandridge was often caught double-teamed, with no teammate cutting to get open.
Four straight fast-break baskets, three by Campy Russell, cut the Bullet lead to 101-99 with 21 seconds left.
After the ensuing inbounds pass, Dandridge was hemmed along the sideline and caught elbowing Foots Walker as he tried to get free. The foul gave the ball to the Cavaliers at 0:15.
After a Cleveland timeout, Walker worked one on one against Kevin Porter and scored on a 15-foot fallaway shot to tie the score at 101 with five seconds to play.
Russell stole the ball from Dandridge after the Bullets inbounded the ball, but the buzzer sounded as he was driving for the basket.
Cleveland missed its first six shots of the overtime and the Bullets appeared to have things back in control when Kevin Grevey made two free throws after a foul by Randy Smith. That gave Washington a 111-105 lead with 1:11 remaining.
Smith, who finished with 28 points, came back with a three-point play at 0:59 to cut the gap to 111-108.
Hayes missed a jumper and the rebound went out of bounds off Dandridge, giving the ball back to the Cavaliers with 35 seconds left.
Mike Mitchell scored on a turnaround jumper to cut the lead to one point but, at 0:12, Grevey made a 12-footer to restore a three-point edge, 113-110.
Cleveland called time so Coach Stan Albeck could set a play. It worked as Smith gunned in a 27-foot three-point shot from beyond the head of the key, behind a screen from Mitchell, for a tie with seven seconds to go.
The Bullets called time to get the ball at midcourt.
Wes Unseld inbounded the ball to Grevey, who bounced a pass into Hayes at the foul line. Mitchell went for the steal and came over Hayes' back for a foul.
Hayes went to the line and drilled in two points.
The Cavaliers lost their chance to tie or win when Smith fell down as he took Russell's inbound pass and lost the ball to Jim Cleamons, the erstwhile Cavalier.
The Bullets won the game on the boards as they outrebounded the Cavaliers, 67-40. Unseld captured 17 in Washington's biggest rebounding night of the season.
Tonight's game was the Bullets' first of three in three nights -- all on the road. They play Phil Chenier and the Indiana Pacers Friday night and The Chicago Bulls Saturday.