Johnny Davis scored the Pacers' final six points, including two free throws with three seconds to play, to lift Indiana over the Bullets, 92-90, before 6,723 NBA customers last night at Capital Centre.
Davis, the game's high scorer with 24 points, went to the foul line after a controversial call by official Jake O'Donnell against the Bullets' Frank Johnson.
Johnson had made a pressure 20-foot jumper with the 24-second clock running out to forge a 90-90 tie with 11 seconds left. The Pacers called time to set a play and get the ball at midcourt.
Coach Jack McKinney said they wanted the ball to go to Davis, but Johnson overplayed him, preventing Herb Williams from getting the ball to him. Williams, the rookie from Ohio State, started to panic and lobbed a desperation pass toward Davis, who used his quickness to snare it.
Johnson positioned himself in front of Davis as the Indiana guard took one out-of-control dribble and forced up a leaning, off-balance 15-footer from the right of the lane as he fell into Johnson. The shot did not come close to going in. Both Davis and Johnson crashed to the floor.
O'Donnell called a blocking foul on the Washington rookie. Davis went to the line and made his two free shots.
The Bullets called time and got off a shot, a 24-footer from the top of the key by Johnson. It bounced off the front rim and the Bullets were losers for the sixth time in their last seven outings.
Bullet Coach Gene Shue was very upset at the officiating of O'Donnell and Jess Kersey, but refrained from blasting them publicly.
"You'd think that at least one call down the stretch would go our way, but none did," Shue said. "It's a shame. Frank couldn't have played any better defense on that play."
Johnson, who scored 16 points, said he thought he had played Davis perfectly on the critical foul."He (Davis) had committed himself," Johnson said. "It was going to be a tough shot for him."
The Bullet led by nine points, 77-68, with 8:36 remaining, but the Pacers maintained poise and chipped away.
Rick Mahorn, top Bullet scorer with a season-high 21 points, kept Washington in good shape, 84-78, with a layup with 5:26 remaining, but the Bullets never made another field goal until Johnson's jumper with 11 seconds left.
After a debatable loose-ball foul on Kevin Grevey, Indiana's Louis Orr made one of two free throws with 1:49 remaining to cut the Bullet lead to 88-86. After a Mahorn miss, Davis made a jumper from the base line to tie the score at 88 with one minute remaining.
The 6-foot-11 Williams blocked a Greg Ballard shot on the Bullets' next possession and Davis got a fast-break layup out of that for a 90-88 Indiana lead with 31 seconds left.
Williams totaled 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
This was a game of spurts. The Bullets ran off a 16-2 burst at the beginning of the second quarter to take a 40-26 lead, then fell apart the rest of the period as Indiana outscored them, 21-5, for a 47-45 lead at halftime.
An 8-0 scoring rush by the Pacers put them on top, 59-51, but the Bullets responded with an 18-3 rally to take a 69-62 lead into the fourth quarter.
First-year man Jeff Ruland had another strong game for the Bullets, 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds.
The Bullets' biggest problem was their shooting. They shot 39 percent in the first quarter, 38 percent in the second, 28 in the third and 29 in the fourth quarter.
"We played hard, we played well and we did a lot of good things," Shue said, "but we just can't score."