Mike Gminski tapped in a missed Mike O'Koren jump shot with nine seconds to play last night to give the New Jersey Nets a 114-112 victory over the slumping Washington Bullets at Capital Centre.

The loss, the Bullet's third in a row after a victory in the season opener, illustrated both their inability to hold a lead and their knack for botching last-minute plays.

After Gminski's basket, Washington had two chances to score. They ran a good play that opened Greg Ballard for a shot from the left corner, but it bounced off the rim. Elvin Hayes and Mike Newin battled for the rebound with three seconds left.

The Bullets had no regular timeouts remaining, so they took a 20-second injury timeout and hurridly tried to set up a play.

It didn't work.

Since Hayes was the closest Bullet to the ball when it was knocked out of bounds, he had to in-bound it at the spot where it went out of bounds, near the right corner.

On the play, Wes Unseld was supposed to screen Newlin, who was guarding Kevin Grevey, and then roll to the basket. Unseld couldn't reach Newlin and Hayes, with his allotted five seconds to in-bound the ball running out, frantically threw it outside toward Bob Dandridge. It was well over dandridge's head, and by the time the forward leaped to catch it and got control, all he could do was throw up a desperation 35-footer that banged high off the glass.

"That was the only play I had," Hayes said.

"There was no problem with the play we set up for Greg with nine seconds left," Coach Gene Shue said. "He just didn't make it. With only three seconds left in the game and 20 seconds to set a play and from that spot on the floor, there isn't much you can do. What we tried just didn't come off."

The Bullets had what appeared to be a safe 110-104 lead with 2:31 to play, but, as in Thursday night's loss to Cleveland, they fell apart and the younger, less-experienced team came up with the big plays. After a Hayes free throw gave them the six-point lead, the Bullets missed their next three shots, Hayes missing once and Dandridge twice.

The Nets scored on each of their last five possessions.

Cliff Robinson, who finished with 23 points, made a 12-footer and Newlin followed with a running 18-footer. Foots Walker then scored on a drive down the middle to tie the score at 110 with 1:14 remaining.

Dandridge missed a jumper with 52 seconds left with Robinson rebounding and starting a fast break that resulted in a Gminski layup and a 112-110 New Jersey lead with 46 seconds to play.

Hayes, who played only 20 minutes because of foul trouble, scored on a drive to tie the score at 112-112 with 33 seconds left.

The Nets ran a poor play and O'Koren was left to force up a 20-footer as the 24-second clock ran out. It was short, but Gminski eluded Wes Unseld underneath and tapped the ball in with his left hand.

"I should have been in position to screen him off, but I wasn't," Unseld said.

Grevey led the Bullets with 29 points, the highest total for any Bullet this season. Dandridge had 16.

Rookie Wes Matthews had 10 assists, but he and starter Kevin Porter were in foul trouble much of the game and were outplayed by Walker.

The 5-foot-11 Walker scored 18 points and had 12 assists and eight rebounds.

The Bullets will conclude a three-games-in-three-nights stretch tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Sectrum. It was the 76ers who started the Bullets on their losing streak a week ago at Capital Centre with a 126-120 double overtime victory.