It was "Stop Lloyd Free" evening at the Capital Centre and the Washington Bullets successfully did that last night. Unfortunately for them, they couldn't stop Freeman Williams.
That hot-shooting second-year reserve guard from Portland State scored 13 of San Diego's last 15 points and the Clippers beat the Bullets, 93-90.
Williams made five of seven shots in the fourth quarter and three free throws. In one stretch he scored 11 straight San Diego points. He finished with 24.
Free made only six of 24 shots and scored 23 points, eight under his average. He was 11 for 11 from the foul line.
Since Free didn't reach his 31-point average, all 15,989 in attendance, as part of a promotion, will receive a free ticket to another Bullet home game.
But the main reason the Bullets lost was that they could not shoot the basketball worth a darn. They made only four of 20 shots in the second quarter while blowing a 10-point lead.
For the game they shot a lowly 39 percent. And when they needed the tough defense, it wasn't there.
The reserves were not much help either. Mitch Kupchak, who had a big fourth quarter with 13 points, was the only Bullet substitute who scored.
"I don't know what happened to us, but I knew we can't win snooting like this," said Coach Dick Motta. "We just aren't very consistent. We crumbled.
The crumbling started with the second quarter, when the British brought out only four players. Nick Weatherspoon scored right away to cut the Bullet lead to eight and the Clippers were on their way to handing the Bullets their third loss in four games. The defeat dropped Washington four games below .500.
After Weatherspoon's basket, the Clippers went on to outscore the Bullets, 17-3. Five of those points came from Williams off fast breaks. All five Clippers in the game during that span scored at least two points, while three free throws by Kupchak were all the Bullets could come up with.
By the period's end, Free had scored 10 points and the Bullets only 13, their fewest of any quarter this season.
The Clippers led, 53-47, at the halfand the Bullets were still down by six going into the final quarter.
Sidney Wicks hit two straight 18-footers over Kupchak and Brian Taylor scored on a fast break after intercepting a Wes Unseld pass. That gave the Clippers a 78-66 lead a minute and a half into the quarter.
Kupchak brought the Bullets back with an impressive one-man scoring display, accounting for nine of the Bullets' first 12 points in the quarter. And it was his three-point play, after a three-point shot by Kevin Grevey, that got the Bullets to 80-78, with 7:13 to play.
Then Williams took over. Working mostly against Kevin Porter, who is five inches shorter, Williams scored the game's next seven points to put the Clippers on top, 87-78, with 4:34 to play.
The Bullets gathered themselves for one more charge and back-to-back baskets by Elvin Hayes got the score to 93-90 with 1:25 left.
Neither team scored again, though. The Clippers were called for an offensive foul and missed their last three shots, while the Bullets only got one more shot, a forced jumper by Hayes that was short.
The Bullets got the ball a last time with 14 seconds left. They called two timeouts and tried to set up a three-point shot that would send the game into overtime, but Jim Cleamons' pass toward Roger Phegley in the left corner, was intercepted by Joe Bryant with one second left.
"We played excellent defense all night," said San Diego Coach Gene Shue, "and that's what won for us. We took control early, and kept it."
Once again, some Bullets had impressive statistics, but no victory to make them mean much.
Hayes had 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Unseld equaled his season rebounding high with 21. Cleamons had a season high 11 assists, while Kupchak had 16 points in 15 minutes.
The other Bullet reserves, though, Dave Corzine, Larry Wright, Phegley and Porter, played a total of 37 minutes and shot 0-9 from the field, 0-0 from the foul line and had only two rebounds.