Jeff Ruland scored a career-high 37 points tonight, but they weren't enough; the Kansas City Kings outscored the Bullets by 8-1 over the final 83 seconds and earned a 113-107 victory at Kemper Arena.
Washington has lost four of its last five, all on the road. This six-game trip, its longest this season, will end, mercifully, Saturday night in Denver.
It was another Ruland-takes-charge night, as the 6-foot-11, 260-pound forward/center almost carried his team to victory. He made 11 of 17 shots, 15 of 20 free throws and had 14 rebounds--seven offensive--four assists and a steal. The Kings, seemingly, took turns mugging Ruland. They committed 25 fouls and Ruland was the victim 16 times.
Don Collins supported Ruland with 22 points, six rebounds and four steals. But center Rick Mahorn seemed to disappear for the second straight game; he went scoreless and had only three rebounds in 22 minutes. Dave Batton played most of the second half.
Ruland has 99 points since he became a starter three games ago.
"It would have been nice to win, though," he said. "We had our chances at the end, but we should have known that this wasn't our night when that guy hoisted that one from his shoulder at the half." He was referring to Kevin Loder's 50-foot heave at the buzzer that gave the Kings a 56-53 lead.
The Bullets fell behind, 101-93, with 5:02 seconds to play, but after a timeout, scored the next 10 points--Ruland had four--to take the lead, 103-101, with 2:49 seconds left.
They were still leading, 106-105, after Ruland made one of two foul shots with 1:38 left.
But Joe C. Meriweather scored after getting an offensive rebound. Then Frank Johnson was called for one of his nine turnovers, a traveling violation, and Mike Woodson made an 18-footer for a three-point Kansas City lead.
Ricky Sobers made only one of two foul shots on the Bullets' next possession, and Larry Drew, who led the Kings with 28 points, eight assists and five steals, made a 20-footer for a 111-107 lead with 15 seconds to play.
"Basically, we can't play much better than we did," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue. "Our effort was excellent. Kansas City was just better."
The Bullets, outrebounded for the fifth straight game, 46-38, fell to 25-29 and into last place in their division for the first time this season.