Spencer Haywood showed last night that, given the opportunity, he can be a valuable offensive strength for the Washington Bullets in their drive for a playoff berth.
With Greg Ballard playing only four minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, Haywood scored a season-high 27 points to help his team edge Kansas City, 100-98, at Capital Centre.
"With Greg out, we started going to Spencer more and he really shot well," said Coach Gene Shue, whose Bullets ended a three-game losing streak and stayed a half-game behind third-place New Jersey.
The only disappointing note for Shue and the crowd of 7,492 was that center Rick Mahorn had to be carried from the court after spraining his right ankle late in the second quarter. His status for Sunday afternoon's important game with New York is not known.
"It got turned (the ankle) and it's sore right now," Mahorn said as he left the training room on crutches. "I'm going to try to play Sunday, but I really won't know until tomorrow morning. I might have to sit out a couple of days."
Shue said that if Mahorn can't play against the Knicks, he will start Jim Chones and leave Jeff Ruland in his reserve role.
The Bullets led the rest of the way after breaking an 86-86 tie with 7 1/2 minutes left on two jumpers by Kevin Grevey (22 points). But they had to sweat out a last-second jumper from the top of the foul circle by Phil Ford that bounced off the front of the rim.
After falling behind, 92-86, with 5:34 remaining, Kansas City came back on four free throws by Mike Woodson. Later, when Ruland was called for his sixth foul, he had a few parting words for referee Jim Capers and was assessed a technical foul.
Ford made the free throw for the technical, but Steve Johnson made only one of two free throws and the Bullets still led, 95-94, with 2:40 remaining.
Frank Johnson, who scored six straight points, made a pair of free throws. Following Ford's deep base line jumper, Johnson made a dazzling double-pump layup in heavy traffic to give the Bullets a 99-96 lead with 24 seconds to play.
Reggie King missed a shot for the Kings and Haywood got the rebound. His pass was intercepted by Woodson, who quickly went to the three-point area in the corner and attempted what could have been a tying shot.
It bounced off the front rim and Frank Johnson threw a long lead pass to Chones, who was grabbed before he could make the lay-in. He made one of two free throws to give the Bullets their winning margin.
"We were very fortunate," Shue admitted. "We've been struggling at home, and without Greg and Rick, we needed a lift from somebody. Luckily, Spencer came through and Grevey had a good game."
Grevey started for the first time since injuring a finger Feb. 10 in Dallas. He played 44 minutes, making nine of 15 shots, and said that his finger didn't bother him.
Haywood scored eight points in the first quarter, but his biggest contribution came in the third period, when he scored 13 to help the Bullets take the lead.
Kansas City, which has lost four straight, made 26 of 46 shots in the first half, and led, 59-55, at intermission. The Kings still were in front, 63-59, when Grevey made two jumpers and Haywood scored on an 18-footer, with Grevey's second basket putting the Bullets on top.
Haywood then scored six straight on two medium jumpers and two foul shots. After Ballard made two in a row, Haywood scored three more points as the Bullets opened an 82-70 advantage.