The lowly Indiana Pacers beat the Washington Bullets for the third straight time tonight when the play designed to tie the game in the final seconds broke down and they couldn't get off a decent shot.
The winning points in the 111-109 victory before the smallest Market Square Arena crowd of the season, 7,349 were scored by James Edwards with 53 seconds remaining. That put the Pacers on top, 110-107.
The Bullets ran a perfect pick-and-roll play on their next possession and Wes Unseld scored an easy layup after taking a slick pass from Jim Cleamons with 44 seconds to play.
The Pacers let the 24-second clock run out for a turnover on their next possession, giving the ball back to the Bullets with 18 seconds left.
The Bullets called a timeout and prepared to run the same play that Unseld had scored on seconds earlier.
They ran it from what Coach Dick Motta called "the wrong side," though, as the Bullets lost their eighth game in the last 12.
Edwards defensed Unseld well and Cleamons was unable to get the ball to him. The second option on the play was to go to Bob Dandridge coming off a double pick, but Billy Knight had that cut off, too. Cleamons passed to Kevin Grevey, who no shot, and he passed the ball back to Cleamons at the head of the key with four seconds left.
Cleamons couldn't see the clock but knew time was running out. His forced 22-footer over Johnny Davis didn't hit anything as the final buzzer sounded.
"The play just broke down, that was all," said Motta.
"If I had known how much time was left on the clock, I think I could have gotten a better shot," Cleamons said. "But the 24-second clock was shut off and I couldn't see the regular clock."
They conclude their three-games-in-three-nights road trip Saturday in Chicago.
The Bullets played well most of the game. They shot 49 percent, committed ony 16 turnovers and outrebounded the Pacers, 61-36. But it was four offensive rebounds in the final five minutes which Indiana converted into eight points that turned the game in the Pacers' favor.
The score was tied, 99-99, after a Greg Ballard free throw with 5:21 left.
Knight missed a jump shot on Indiana's next possession, but Alex English got the rebound and was fouled by Dandridge. He made two free throws for a 101-99 Pacer lead.
Dandridge missed a jumper for the Bullets and 6-2 Johnny Davis grabbed an offensive rebound after Knight missed again on the Pacer's next possession.
Davis was fouled by Wright, and he, too, made two free throws to increase the Indiana lead to four points.
On their next possession, the Bullets had two field goal attempts, but Unseld missed and Elvin Hayes missed the follow-up tip.
Knight scored on an 18-footer, again after an offensive rebound, and the Pacers had a 105-99 lead with 3:48 left.
The Bullets cut the advantage to two points, 107-105, on a dunk by Hayes with two minutes left, but the Pacers stretched the lead back to four when Knight grabbed a missed Davis shot and scored with it with 1:33 to play.
Grevey scored on a 20-footer, before Edwards, who led the Pacers with 24 points, scored the eventual winning points on a turnaround baseline jumper over Unseld.
"Our defense tonight was great and we played good almost the whole game" said Motta "but then in those last four minutes they got all those rebounds and did us in."
Seven Bullets scored in double figures with Dandridge and Grevey each tallying 20.
Cleamons had 10 and made five of six shots. The only one he missed was the last one. He also had five asists and didn't commit a turnover in 27 minutes.
The Pacers got 22 points from English and a fine all-around game from rookie Dudley Bradley who had 11 points seven assists and four steals.
Former Bullet guard Phil Chenier played only in the second quarter and was one for six.