During halftime of the Washington Bullets' 110-101 loss tonight, their assistant coach, Bernie Bickerstaff, approached the Dallas Mavericks' Mark Aguirre with an extended hand.
"Hey big fella, we voted for you," he told the high-scoring forward who failed to make this season's NBA All-Star Game. At the time, Aguirre had scored 28 points, but Bickerstaff's peace offering did little good. By game's end Aguirre had 45.
He wasn't the only marksman. The teams scored more points on jump shots than layups. Dallas shot 54 percent and Washington's 50 percent was considerably higher before the last 3:33, when the Bullets went scoreless.
During that time, a 101-101 tie dissolved into the Bullets' fourth loss in five games on the road. The two-week trek will end Saturday night in Houston.
"I thought we had a really great shot at winning this game," Bullets Coach Gene Shue said. "Then we ran into a series of mistake-type plays, turnovers, bad shots and things like that."
The costliest sequence came with a little more than three minutes left. After tying with a layup, Cliff Robinson had the ball down low, but missed a reverse lay-in. Sam Perkins didn't miss at the other end and Robinson fouled him.
The three-point play gave Dallas a 104-101 lead, and it stayed that way another 1:06, until Rolando Blackman's basket forced Washington to try three-point shots, none successful.
Aguirre even was responsible for Blackman's basket, according to Dallas Coach Dick Motta. "The man guarding Rolando was so intent on helping out on Mark that he never bothered coming over after Ro got the ball," he said. "Rolando was wide open."
Aguirre didn't have that luxury but it didn't matter. The Bullets opened with 6-foot-10, 260-pound Rick Mahorn guarding him, but Aguirre scored 16 first-quarter points.
"We thought they might try something like that," said Motta, who with the victory, his 696th, moved into fourth on the all-time NBA victory list. "They did it once last season and had some success with it, but they're missing (Jeff) Ruland, so they didn't have anyone else to help Mahorn out inside."
"Basically, I've played against some big guys, but he's the biggest," Aguirre said. "He's tough to post up so I tried to take him outside and then drive to the basket. I was scoring from the outside so it wasn't as necessary to do that. It was a different kind of game tonight."
Dudley Bradley held Aguirre to three points in the last seven minutes of the game but he was the fourth player to guard Aguirre."We could have put the whole team on him and we still wouldn't have been able to stop him," Greg Ballard said.
Aguirre, who scored a season-high 49 points against Philadelphia the day it was announced that he didn't make the All-Star team, was asked if the snub still bothered him.
"I won't try and evaluate that until the end of the season," he said. "The voting hasn't been done for the all-pro team. Maybe I can think about that."
Jeff Malone led Washington with 20 points in the game, played in Reunion Arena before 17,007, the Mavericks' 16th full house this season. The Bullets had never lost in Reunion.
In discussing his coaching milestone, and the poor early seasons of the five-year Dallas franchise, Motta waxed philosophic. "When I came to Dallas, I was quite a bit ahead of the second-best active coach. If I had been with a team that played .500 ball, I'd be celebrating my 800th win now," he said. "It's still memorable for the people and teams I came in contact with, along with the referees who cheated me out of another 20 or so wins."