For the second game in a row, a shooting guard was outstanding against the Bullets, and tonight they couldn't overcome it.
Brian Winters put on one of the most remarkable shooting displays of this or any season, scoring 16 straight points for his team to lead Milwaukee to a 107-103 victory in one of the most exciting and well-played games of the year.
The 6-foot-4, eight-year veteran made nine of 10 shots in the second half and finished with a season-high 29 points to almost single-handedly end the Bullets' three-game winning streak. He had 20 of his team's last 29 points. Tuesday night Detroit's John Long scored a career-high 41 points at the Capital Centre.
"He was their whole offense in the second half," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue. "He's one of the very best at executing plays, and they did a great job of setting picks and getting him open.
"Like any great shooter, once he got the feeling that the ball was going in, it didn't matter where he was or who was guarding him."
Shue tried Kevin Grevey, Don Collins and Garry Witts as defensive matchups, but nothing worked as Winters kept coming off screens and shooting away.
"I got to play a little more than usual tonight and the court opened up," Winters said. "We were running well and I was getting the open shot. I hit a few and just got my rhythm going."
Winters opened the season as a starter, but pulled a groin muscle and lost his job to Sidney Moncrief. He missed 12 games and is averaging only 27 minutes in the 16 he has played. He played 34 against the Bullets as Coach Don Nelson went with two big guards for most of the second half, benching playmaker Quinn Buckner.
"Shooters are a very strange breed," Nelson said. "Winters always has worked at his game. He gets here early, and his hard work has helped him regain his shot. He was hot, so we just kept going to him."
The score was tied at 78 when Winters started his incredible shooting spree with a free throw after being fouled by Grevey. He followed that with a drive up the middle, then an unbelievable shot, when he changed his release and let it go from behind his right ear with Grevey's hand in his face. That came after Greg Ballard's three-point play and tied the game, 83-83, going into the fourth quarter.
Winters opened the period with a shot from the base line, then a 20-footer from the left side, and the Bucks were up by four. The Bullets responded with eight straight points, four each by Rick Mahorn and scoring leader Frank Johnson (21 points).
Jeff Ruland switched out and had a hand in Winters' face when the Bucks' sharpshooter made his next shot from the lane. He made one of two free throws, then made two more foul shots after Witts fouled him on a drive, putting Milwaukee ahead, 92-91.
Mahorn's three-point play gave the Bullets a 94-92 lead, but that only lasted until Winters got his hands on the ball again and made a shot from the base line for his 16th straight point.
Scott May's two free throws broke Winter's streak, but after May scored again from 18 feet, the former South Carolina star came back with a 22-footer to give the Bucks a 100-98 lead. They never lost it.
"They just did a heck of a job running plays for their guards," said Grevey, who continued his slump, making only three of eight shots. "They've got a lot of firepower back there with Winters, Moncrief and Junior Bridgeman."
Winter's made two more free throws to boost the Bucks' lead to 102-98, and after Bob Lanier's bank shot, Milwaukee seemed to be control, 104-98, but, as usual, Johnson took charge for the Bullets down the stretch.
The rookie from Wake Forest sank a three-pointer to cut the Bucks' lead to three points. Then, following Lanier's free throw, he sank a jumper from the right base line to make it 105-103 with 27 seconds remaining.
The Bucks ran the clock down to three seconds before Moncrief sank a 20-footer from the right to clinch their fourth straight victory and 12th in their last 15 games.