The Washington Bullets, who have lost many games this season because they couldn't make free throws, won one from the foul line last night, holding off the fast-finishing San Diego Clippers, 100-93.
The Bullets began the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead, but made only four of 13 shots that period. But they sank 15 of 19 free throws. In the game, the Bullets were successful on 30 of 33 foul shots.
When the Clippers started closing on the Bullets, many in the crowd of 5,807 at Capital Centre, and Coach Gene Shue, started thinking of Wednesday's loss to Kansas City. In that game, the Bullets blew a 23-point lead and made only two of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Jeff Ruland, who made only one of six in the last period against the Kings, was six for eight in that period last night and 11 for 13 in the game. The only other Bullet to miss a free throw last night was Frank Johnson, who made five of six.
A three-point shot by Lionel Hollins, followed by two free throws from Hollins after a loose ball foul against Rick Mahorn, got the Clippers within five points. Johnson's driving layup made it 96-89, but Bill Walton scored on a 15-footer, then made two free throws to reduce the Bullets' lead to 96-93 after Ricky Sobers fouled him with 52 seconds left.
Terry Cummings then stole a pass from Don Collins, but the Clippers couldn't score. They missed three shots and, after Tom Chambers was fouled by Ruland, he missed two free throws with 40 seconds left.
Carlos Terry was fouled by Walton and he made two free throws with 23 seconds to play.
Collins then intercepted Cummings's inbounds pass and scored on a fast break dunk to end the scoring.
"The only difference between this game and the Kansas City game was that we converted the free throws this time," said Shue.
The Bullets spent a lot of time practicing the art in practice Thursday, especially Mahorn and Ruland.
"I think the extra work helped them both," said Shue. "Rick had a hitch in his shot and we got it out of him." Mahorn made both foul shots.
"Jeff just has to get his rhythm," said Shue.
The Bullets began the game as the worst free throw shooting team in the NBA, having made only 68 percent.
Shue also made a change in his starting lineup for the third straight game. Against Kansas City, he started two small forwards, Greg Ballard and Charles Davis, both 6 feet 7. But against the Clippers, with a front line of Walton and Chambers, both 6-11, and the 6-9 Cummings, Shue more size was needed.
So he started Spencer Haywood at power forward and moved Ballard back to small forward. Haywood, because of flu, did not play against Kansas City. He had eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter, then tired and finished with 10 points and and 11 rebounds.
"We had to change our lineup because San Diego is so big," said Shue. "We figured the small lineup just wouldn't work and we wanted Rick (Mahorn) to match up against Cummings. So we started Spencer and let him go as hard as he could and then brought in Jeff."
Ruland scored 19 points and had 13 rebounds, the 10th straight game he has rebounded in double figures.
Ballard's 20 points was high for Washington. Hollins had 19, Cummings 18 and Chambers 17 for San Diego.
The Bullets, who had only 30 rebounds, three offensive, against the Kings, got 50 last night. They had 18 on offense, good for 27 points.
They committed 27 turnovers, though, from which the Clippers scored 32 points.