Don Collins made four free throws in the final 16 seconds tonight to give the Bullets a come-from-behind 106-102 victory over San Diego.
Collins, in early foul trouble, got 10 of his 14 points in the final period, when the Bullets overcame an 86-78 deficit to win their third road game in nine tries.
Greg Ballard had 15 of his 19 points in the first half, but the best news for Coach Gene Shue was that Kevin Grevey came back after missing three games with a pulled groin muscle and contributed 17 points, 15 in the second half.
"It was good to have Kevin back in there," Shue said. "That's the first time we used him and Don together in the back court, and they did a heck of a job getting us back in the game.
"Overall, this was a great win for us," the coach continued. "We played well in Los Angeles the other night (a 102-98 loss), and I expect us to play well tomorrow night in Phoenix"
Jeff Ruland was the one who started the fourth-quarter rally. He got the Bullets back in the game by scoring 10 straight points. It was his basket after an offensive rebound that put the Bullets ahead to stay, 90-88.
"I was really playing lousy early," Ruland said. "But I figured if I kept hustling, something good might happen."
The game was still in doubt after Collins' first two free throws because Swen Nater answered with a layup that cut the Bullets lead to 103-102 with 12 seconds remaining. Then Collins made two more free throws, and Jim Chones added another with two seconds remaining.
The Bullets scored the first five points of the game on two short jumpers by Rick Mahorn and a free throw by Greg Ballard.
Tom Chambers, the Clippers' first-round draft choice who had scored only 13 points in his last three games, made four straight shots to keep San Diego in contention.
Grevey came in to test his pulled groin muscle. He sank his first shot, but obviously was favoring his injury and was replaced by Garry Witts after two minutes.
After falling behind, 20-14, San Diego scored the last 10 points of the first period to edge in front, 24-20.
By intermission, the Bullets trailed by only two, 46-44.
The Bullets started quickly in the second half, scoring the first five points to take a 49-46 lead.
Grevey entered the lineup and scored four quick points, but despite Ballard's layup at the end of the quarter, the Bullets still trailed, 73-68, going into the final period.
Grevey scored four more points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, but the Clippers opened up an 81-74 advantage.
With the Clippers leading, 86-83, Ruland took command. The 6-foot-11 rookie from Iona scored 10 consecutive points on two straight three-point plays, then two baskets off offensive rebounds. His last one gave the Bullets a 90-88 lead with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.