The Bullets and the New Jersey Nets staged a double overtime thriller last night at Capital Centre, giving fans a possible playoff preview.
With former Maryland stars Albert King and Len Elmore scoring four points each in the second extra period, the Nets pulled away to a 130-124 victory that boosted their lead over the Bullets to 1 1/2 games in the battle for the home court advantage in a likely miniseries between the two teams..
A glaring defensive lapse cost the Bullets this important game after they gained a three-point lead with 22 seconds left in the first overtime. The only way the Nets could win was with a three-point play and the Bullets left long-range shooter Darwin Cook wide open.
Cook, playing in place of Ray Williams, who had fouled out, was all alone just outside the three-point line on the right side and swished his jumper with 10 seconds to play.
"All I had to do was set myself," the second-year guard from the University of Portland said. "Mike (O'Koren) had the ball at the circle and my man ran at him, leaving me wide open. It's kinda easy when you don't think about it."
Don Collins played the entire first overtime in place of Kevin Grevey (15 points) and was responsible for Cook, but the Bullets were spread all over the court after Spencer Haywood missed a free throw with 22 seconds left.
"It was a mental breakdown," said Coach Gene Shue. "How can we not guard a man in the three-point area in that situtation? This is very upsetting.
"We were in complete control," the coach continued. "Then we missed some free throws and lost our concentration on defense."
After two ties in the first overtime, Haywood (21 points), made his third straight medium-range jumper of the period to put the Bullets in front, 114-112.
Ray Williams missed a baseline drive and when Haywood grabbed the rebound, Williams fouled out slapping at the ball. He screamed at referee Lee Jones and was assessed a technical foul.
Greg Ballard missed the free shot, but Haywood followed with the two foul shots and the Bullets were on top, 116-112, with 46 seconds left. King (20 points) made two free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound to cut the Bullet lead in half, but Haywood had a chance to regain the four-point advantage with 22 seconds remaining. He made only one, setting up Cook's heroics.
In the second overtime, King drove up the middle to give the Nets a 121-119 edge, then, as the shot clock was running out, swished a desperation 21-foot turn-around jumper that gave New Jersey a four-point lead it never lost.
"I made turn-arounds all the time at Maryland," King said, with a grin. "I didn't think the basket was as far as it was, but the shoot felt good when I let it go."
Frank Johnson, who usually carries the offensive load late in the game, had 14 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter. But he couldn't connect on his jumpers at this stage.
By recovering loose balls and grabbing offensive rebounds, the Bullets maintained possession for the next 46 seconds before finally scoring on a base line jumper by Ballard that made it 123-121 with 1:26 left.
Buck Williams, the game's top rebounder with 12, stole the ball from Johnson and made a half-hook in the lane to boost the Nets' lead back to four points. After the Bullets missed, Elmore sank a pair of three throws, making Johnson's desperation three-pointer inmaterial.
There were 38 lead changes and 28 ties in this nail-bitter that gave the Nets a 2-1 edge in the all-important season series.
Ballard's 25 points paced the Bullets' attack. Jeff Ruland added 24 before fouling out on a foolish over-the-back rebound attempt with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter.