The Washington Bullets' inability to make the open jump shot cost them another game tonight, this time to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers, 90-88.
Cleveland forward Mike Mitchell scored his team's final 14 points to give the Cavs a two-point lead with 26 seconds left. Greg Ballard missed two jump shots and John Williamson, another in those final 26 seconds and that was it.
"We got the shots we wanted, but you've got to put the damn ball in the basket," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue, obviously upset. "We had our best shooters in the game and we knew what they would do defensively, but you have to be able to make the open shot."
For his winning basket, Mitchell drove down the lane and made a difficult leaning shot over Elvin Hayes. The Bullets called time to get the ball at midcourt.
Shue replaced Kevin Porter and Bob Dandridge with Ballard and Williamson. He set Ballard and Kevin Grevey, the Bullets' best long-range shooters, in the corners and directed Wes Unseld's inbounds pass to Williamson near the top of the key.
The Cavaliers, as expected, double-teamed the ball and Williamson passed it to the right corner to an open Ballard. His jump shot bounded over the rim, but Grevey grabbed the rebound. He passed back outside to Williamson, whose open 17-footer from out front missed. pBallard came up with that rebound and forced up a fadeaway shot from the right baseline that went long.
Cleveland's Mike Bratz gathered in the rebound with three seconds left and held the ball until the horn sounded.
The Bullets (1-2) will face the New Jersey Nets Friday night in Capital Centre in the second of three games in three nights.
The Bullets came back from a nine-point second-quarter deficit tonight to take an 82-76 lead with 7:44 left in the game. It looked like they had everything under control, but they suddenly fell apart. On their next nine possessions they missed three shots and turned the ball over five times.
Mitchell, who finished with 30 points, was the only Cavalier to score in the final 7:44 and Dandridge was the only Bullet to score in that span. Dandridge was taken out of the game for the final 26 seconds.
Shue said the move was made because he wanted his best shooters in the game. Dandridge said he was surprised but didn't second-guess Shue.
The Bullets committed 20 turnovers, seven in the final quarter. The Cavaliers committed a club record low, eight, all night.
"If we were a little more under control, we might have been able to protect the lead," Shue said, "but we kept turning the ball over. We should be winning games when we hold the other team to 90 points."
Hayes continued his slump, missing 10 of 15 shots, and Dandridge was only five of 12.
Grevey led the Bullets with 14 points, including two of three three-point shots.
Mitchell, a 6-7 third-year man from Auburn, had 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Bullet rookie Wes Matthews turned in some crowd-pleasing plays on the few fast breaks the Bullets got, but he committed seven turnovers, three of them in the final quarter.
It was Matthews' jump shot, the first one he has made this season, that gave the Bullets their 82-76 lead with 7:44 remaining.
Ten straight points by Mitchell put the Cavaliers on top, 88-82, with 3:00 left. Then Dandridge scored his six in a row to tie the score at 88 with 38 seconds left.
Mitchell had one more basket in him, but the Bullets had nothing but blanks left and dropped to last place in the Atlantic Division.