The Washington Bullets lost in overtime for the first time this season, on the road for the eighth straight time and overall for the third straight time, dropping a 125-121 decision to the Golden State Warriors in double overtime today at the Coliseum.
Although the Bullets have fallen to one game over .500 at 28-27, and despite their hard luck, they've got nothing on the Warriors. Golden State (12-41) had won only one other game in all of 1985 and had lost 21 of 22 games this year.
In ending that spell of futility, the home team had Purvis Short to thank. Inexplicably left out of last week's All-Star Game, the forward from Jackson State scored a game-high 46 points, many of them on long, arching jumpers or running lay-ins from improbable angles.
Cliff Robinson, enjoying a homecoming in the Bay area, scored a season-high 32 points and got 17 rebounds for the Bullets, but the loss made his personal stats seem hollow.
"That was a very tough loss," he said. "I thought we had them, but they wouldn't say die. It was like trying to drown someone underwater; we just couldn't keep their heads down and they kept popping back up."
The Bullets did well in pushing the game into overtime, given the soggy nature of their performance most of the afternoon. The team was plagued by foul trouble, turned over the ball 17 times and shot 41 percent from the field.
The poor marksmanship became acute late in the fourth period. Trailing much of the game, the Bullets battled back to take a 99-96 lead with 5:28 to play. From that point until the end of regulation, they failed to make a field goal, their sole points coming on two free throws by Jeff Malone with 1:13 left.
"It was the kind of game we're supposed to win but I guess it wasn't in the cards," Bullets Coach Gene Shue said. "Prior to the overtime, we had every chance in the world to pull it out."
In the first five-minute overtime period, Short scored six points, the last two giving the Warriors a 111-107 lead with 32 seconds to play. Following a timeout, Malone (25 points) misfired on a three-point shot but recovered the loose ball and hit on another attempt to cut the margin to one.
With nine seconds remaining, Golden State's Eric Floyd was fouled but missed the second of two free throws. After another timeout, the Bullets chose to go for the win but Tom McMillen missed a three-point shot. The ball bounced loose to Robinson, whose follow shot just beat the buzzer, sending the game into the second overtime.
In that five-minute session, the backbreaker came with Golden State ahead, 122-119. Confronted with a scrambling Washington defense and the shot clock running down, center Jerome Whitehead, at best a mediocre shooter from the outside, banked a shot in form the right side with 13 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
"Our guys showed a lot of courage keeping it going down the stretch," Golden State Coach John Bach said. "We executed very well. We were tired but still played tough."
Despite their lowly status in the NBA hierarchy, the Warriors were the aggressors, pushing the Bullets about for much of the game. Twice, Malone was sent to the floor, crumpled by picks of the sort usually set by a Jeff Ruland or a Rick Mahorn.
Although he didn't mishandle the visitors with bulk, the slender Short did damage with stiletto-like moves. Although he averages almost 28 points a game, second in the NBA entering today's games, Short said he hadn't been playing very well.
"My outside shot hasn't been good the last four or five games and I had started to change the way I play," he said. "Today I felt good, though, so I decided to just pick my spots when I had them. It helped that (Greg) Ballard got into foul trouble because he couldn't guard me as tightly as he wanted to. That let me get good looks at the basket."
The Bullets find themselves in immediate danger of taking a six-game collar on their two-week swing west. If that happens, the team would return to Washington with a sub-.500 record, and that doesn't appeal to Shue.
"Basically, what we're going through now is like training camp, but you can't be going through that now when it's time to be winning," he said. "I think Cliff played a great game and Dudley Bradley has done a fine job, but now we really miss Frank Johnson.
"When Gus isn't playing well -- and he's not right now -- Frank is the guy you want in there because he forces things on defense and he knows how to run our offense."
Johnson, however, is out for at least another five to six weeks with a broken foot. By the time he returns, things might have gotten to the point that the next training camp Washington goes through will be next season.