Kevin Porter continued his magic tonight, dominating a basketball game as much as a 5-foot-10 person can.
The guard had 28 points, 17 assists and three steals in leading the Bullets by the hand to a 115-110 victory over the Denver Nuggets. His back-court mate, Kevin Grevey, also had 28 points as Washington ended the five-stop western portion of its seven-game trip with two victories.
"This win tonight was very important because it made the trip satisfying," said Coach Gene Shue. "We won two of the five, we lost two in overtime and we could have won in Seattle. The players should feel very good about this trip."
They almost felt sick, though, as they nearly belw a six-point lead in the last 3:45.
Mitch Kupchak had put the Bullets ahead, 111-105, at that point, but they didn't score again until Porter made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining.
David Thompson, who led Denver with 25 points, had a chance to tie the score at 111 with 39 seconds left, but he made only one of two free throws. Greg Ballard missed a jumper at the other end and the Bullets got a break when the ball went out of bounds off Thompson with 20 seconds to play. That meant Washington would not have to take another shot.
The Bullets held the ball until Kenny Higgs fouled Porter, who made two free throws for a 113-110 lead. The Nuggets rushed upcourt, but Thompson's three-point attempt missed badly and Grevey scored on a fast break to account for the game's final points.
"We were trying to run plays there at the end, but we either got into them too late, some of the players didn't hear which ones we were running or something else happened," Shue said. "Denver played good defense and we just plain screwed up a couple of times."
Denver came into the game as the highest scoring team in the National Basketball Association, averaging 119 points per game. "Our who idea was to control their fast break," Shue said. "We did it by keeping our guards back and even bringing a forward back sometimes."
Porter now has had 17, 18 and 17 assists in the last three games and the Bullets have won two of them.
"There is no doubt he's the leader of this team," said Elvin Hayes, whose shooting slump continued although he had 12 rebounds and blocked five shots, two late in the game. "Kevin is controlling the ball and he's doing the things it takes to win. He pushes the ball up court fast and if he doesn't have a shot, he gets it to the shooters."
Grevey has been the primary recipient of Porter's asists. He had 36 points in Phoenix Sunday night and made 11 of 18 shots tonight, including two of three three-point tries.
Porter said he felt "winded and woozy" all game, which partly explains how Denver point guards Higgs and Billy McKinney could score 39 points, Higgs getting 21.
Because Porter was fatigued from playing so much the past few weeks, the Bullets didn't use their usually successful one-four offense as much as they have been.
"Gene did a majority of the play calling down the stretch," Porter said.
Porter's teammates are looking to him for direction and he said it is that confidence from them and the confidence Shue and assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff have in him "that has helped me play so well these last 15 games or so. I'm playing as well as I have since I left Detroit, but I'll feel a lot better if we put together some more wins and get into the playoffs.
"Individual stats are nice, but at this stage of my career, winning is the only thing that is important."
Hayes, still bothered by a painful hip pointer, made only two of 15 shots and scored four points. In the last five games, he has had only 43 points (8.6 a game) and has made only 17 of 61 shots.
"I just can't get up off my leg," he said, "so I'm not even thinking about my offense anymore. Until my leg gets better, I'm just going to concentrate on my rebounding, playing defense and blocking shots, because that's where I can help the team the most. The way Grevey, K.P. and Greg are scoring, we don't need me to score that much."
The Bullets will return home Wednesday before busing to Philadelphia for a Friday night game with the 76ers in the Spectrum. They will face Detroit in the Silverdome Saturday, then return to Capital Centre to play Portland Tuesday.