The Washington Bullets hung on last night for a 105-102 victory over the New York Knicks before 6,978 at Capital Centre to sweep the six-game season series. The Bullets handed the Knicks their 29th road loss in 33 games.
The Bullets improved their mark to 35-34, matching their victory total for all of last season.
Forwards Cliff Robinson and Greg Ballard did the heavy duty work for the Bullets. Robinson scored 24 points and got 16 rebounds; Ballard had the same number of points to go along with 12 rebounds. Guard Jeff Malone had 23 points, swing man Darren Daye 14 and guard Gus Williams 10, six of them in the last 3:20 of the game.
As usual, forward Bernard King provided most of the excitement for New York, scoring a game-high 34 points. It was King and King alone who made things remotely interesting. Scoring 16 third-quarter points, including the final 10 of the period for his team, King brought the Knicks from a 65-52 deficit to a 76-73 deficit after three periods.
It was also King who tied the score at 88, scoring a three-point play with 6:42 remaining in the game. The teams seesawed from there until Malone made a jumper with 3:40 to play, giving Washington a 94-92 lead.
Besides King's offense, the Knicks had gotten back into the game because of their pressing defense, but at that point it was the Bullets' Charles Jones who took control at the defensive end. Having already made the play of the game when he blocked a dunk attempt by King with 4:58 to play, Jones spiked an attempt by Louis Orr at the 3:10 mark, then forced the forward to rush his second attempt.
Shortly after that missed shot, Williams, who had made two free throws 10 second earlier, scored on a jumper, putting the Bullets ahead, 98-92. Washington would maintain that six-point lead until just under the two-minute mark, when scores by King, Butch Carter and Rory Sparrow, assisted by two turnovers by the home team, created a 100-100 tie with 1:12 left.
Five seconds later, Ballard made two free throws to put the Bullets back on top, but they were matched by King 12 seconds later. Ballard then made a jumper at the 40-second mark, and King's miss 18 seconds afterward led to the Knicks' fouling Malone, who made one of two free throws for the final margin.
After the game, Coach Gene Shue said he was suitably impressed by the Bullets' success against New York. "It amazes me that any team could beat another six times in a season," he said.
"Every game was like a replay. Like most of the games things got a little tense because of their press -- tonight more than usual -- but unlike against other teams when our shots don't fall, against the Knicks we always seemed to have an answer."
"When they press like that it really doesn't give us the oportunity to run our plays like we want to," Williams said. "The key when they're scrambling like that is to keep passing the ball around. That's how everybody had their opportunities tonight. Mine just happened to come at the end of the game."
In the Knicks' scheme of things, given their injury-riddled season (the team has had more player games missed than any other in the NBA), most of their opportunities go to King. But with losses more often than not being the end result, it makes his brillance seem a bit hollow.
"My points are unimportant, the bottom line is that they won the game," he said. "After a game is over, I'm more interested in things like my rebounding and assists, or if I did a good defensive job on the man I was guarding.
"Coming close has been the story of our season. If we had a win for every time we've done that, we'd have one of the best marks in the league and everyone would be leaving this locker room with smiles on their faces."
Instead, the smiles were further down the Capital Centre halls, being worn by members of the Bullets. "I just felt really good about tonight's game," said Ballard. "We needed it, not that we didn't need last night's (a 103-97 loss to Atlanta), but tonight I just tried to do the things that would help the team win and fortunately the ball was going into the basket."