The Washington Bullets' new back court of Frank Johnson and Ricky Sobers performed last night just as Coach Gene Shue envisioned when Sobers was signed as a free agent two weeks ago.
With those two controlling the tempo from outside and center Rick Mahorn dominating inside, the Bullets defeated the Indiana Pacers, 103-99, at Capital Centre.
Snow helped keep the crowd to 3,683, smallest this season.
Johnson scored 21 points and had 10 assists and two steals; Sobers had 19 points, four assists and two steals.
Mahorn had 21 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots as the Bullets (22-25) won their fourth in five games, following a nine-game losing streak.
Don Collins was the only other guard Shue used, and he played 18 minutes.
"That's the rotation we want," said Shue.
The game still went down to the final seconds before Sobers ensured victory with a running bank shot with 15 seconds left.
An 18-foot jumper by Jerry Sichting got the Pacers within 98-97 with 1:40 to play, but Johnson increased the lead to three with an 18-footer with 64 seconds remaining.
Collins made one of two free throws 19 seconds later after he was fouled rebounding Herb Williams' missed shot. That left the Bullets ahead, 101-97.
Butch Carter, who led Indiana with 28 points, made two free throws after being fouled by Johnson with 33 seconds left.
The Bullets intentionally worked down the 24-second clock. Sobers then drove the middle and banked in a difficult arching shot over Williams and Clark Kellogg. Neither team scored again.
"I don't think we had to make that last shot so difficult," said Shue, "but it was the shot we wanted."
Shue was particularly pleased with the way Johnson played.
"I thought Frank did a very good job," he said. "He made some excellent decisions in recognizing what the defense was doing and adjusting to it."
Said Johnson: "I think the rotation we are using is good because it gives all of us a breather and you get used to working with the same people. We were able to break them down and got a lot of fast breaks.
"When we're fast-breaking is when the guards are going to score a lot. When it's a slow-down game, the ball goes inside to the big fellas."
Johnson plays the point guard most of the time and Sobers the shooting guard, except when Sobers is in with Collins.
The Bullets used a 10-0 rally in the first period to take a 26-19 lead late in the period, but ran into a cold spell early in the second quarter and were outscored, 17-3. They went 4:24 without a field goal, getting only three shots as they turned over the ball six times.
Carter and Kellogg had six points apiece in that spurt.
The Bullets got back in the game by going with their small lineup of Greg Ballard and Charles Davis at forwards. Davis, Johnson and Sobers had four points each in the final five minutes of the quarter and the Bullets cut a nine-point deficit to 48-47 at halftime.
Shue stayed with the small lineup in the third period and an 8-0 spurt, with four points by Mahorn, put the Bullets ahead, 55-51, with 9:45 and they never trailed again.
Washington led by nine later in the third quarter, but with Carter and Kellogg (19 points) leading the way, the Pacers rallied, tying the score at 82 with 10:10 left on a three-point shot from the left corner by Carter.
Ballard scored on a 15-foot jump shot after a pass from Collins, and Collins scored on a fast-break basket to get the lead back to four points midway through the period.
The Bullets used only eight players. One of them, Spencer Haywood, still weak from flu, played only eight minutes and scored one point.