After New Jersey Nets Coach Larry Brown moved Albert King to guard in the fourth quarter last night, he didn't have to wait long to see how it would work out. The former University of Maryland star scored 15 points in the first 9 1/2 minutes of the period, making six straight shots, as the Nets ended the Washington Bullets' winning streak at four with a 105-99 victory before 7,291 at Capital Centre.
"It wasn't a stroke of genius to play Albert at guard," said Brown. "The position (shooting guard) and 3 position (small forward) are almost mirrors of each other in our system anyway. Albert still did well there, especially since it's the first time we've done that this year."
Another guard, Darwin Cook, started in place of Otis Birdsong, New Jersey's leading scorer this season. Birdsong, who is averaging 18.2 points, has the flu; his replacement last night made seven of 10 shots and scored 22 points.
Buck Williams had 17 rebounds and Darryl Dawkins blocked seven shots, a record for a Bullets opponent. Mike Gminksi blocked five as the Nets totaled 16 blocks.
But this was King's night.
"It always means a little extra when I can come back to the Washington area and do well," he said.
Still, the game wasn't decided until the final 24 seconds.
The Nets had what seemed to be a safe 97-89 lead after two free throws by Cook with 1:56 remaining. But three-point baskets by Frank Johnson and Greg Ballard cut the margin to 101-97 with 36 seconds remaining. A back court violation by Len Elmore gave the ball back to the Bullets with 20 seconds left, but a turnover resulted when Jeff Ruland threw the inbounds pass to New Jersey's Buck Williams.
Williams was fouled by Johnson, but missed both free throws, with Ballard rebounding the second one.
With 24 seconds left, Mike O'Koren fouled Don Collins and Collins made two free throws to cut the lead to 101-99.
The Bullets were forced to foul to get back the ball, but unfortunately for them, the Nets made four straight from the line in the final eight seconds, two by Mickey Johnson and two by Cook. That settled the outcome and evened New Jersey's record at 9-9. The Bullets dropped to 7-9.
It was a close, slow-paced game for three quarters, with the Nets taking a 65-61 lead into the final 12 minutes. The score was tied 12 times and the lead changed 23 times up to that point.
The Nets had taken an early 10-4 lead, but once the Bullets caught up at 12, neither side led by more than five until a three-point play by Mickey Johnson gave the Nets an 89-83 lead with 3:55 remaining.
The last time the Bullets led was at 57-55 after a fast break basket by Collins with 3:30 in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was almost all fast break, similar to a playground game.
"I was in a rhythm and felt like I could make anything," said King. "Some of those shots weren't what you'd call good shots, but they were going in."
King scored on driving scoop shots, double-pumping layups and 16-foot jump shots. The Bullets tried both Collins and Carlos Terry on him.
The Bullets were led by Ballard with 22 points and a career-high 10 assists. Ruland and Rick Mahorn each scored 18 points, although Ruland played only 29 minutes before fouling out.
Bullets guard Kevin Grevey, activated off the injured list earlier in the day, played 12 minutes and scored one point. He missed his only two shots from the field.
Billy Ray Bates, signed as a free agent before the start of training camp, was waived to make room on the roster for Grevey.
"I felt fine tonight," said Grevey, who had been on the injured list all season with a torn abdominal muscle sustained last season, "but I was nervous. I felt like a rookie because I haven't played in so long. I'll be all right after two or three games, as soon as I can just relax."