Gus Williams, who had missed on his previous four shots, hit a tough running hook shot with 1:16 left to play to spur the Washington Bullets to a 111-105 victory over the Indiana Pacers today.
It was the Bullets' second straight win and the first time they have put together back-to-back triumphs since late January. It also put them at .500 (37-37), despite having key players Jeff Ruland and Frank Johnson sidelined with injuries.
"It was a very important game," said Washington Coach Gene Shue, adding that, "I felt we were very, very fortunate to win."
Although the Pacers aren't the picture of health, both in record (20-55, tied for worst in the NBA) and injuries (Herb Williams, Jerry Sichting and Bill Garnett all did not play), they looked good enough to snap their nine-game losing streak going into this game.
The Bullets, who made 61 percent of their shots in the first quarter and hit their first six shots in the second, eventually built up some comfort in a 56-43 lead with 3:32 to go in the first half. But, as Gus Williams said, "They play hard and are a tough team to beat, no matter what their record might indicate."
So the Pacers, who finished March with a 1-16 record, scored 13 straight points to get back into the game. It was an indication of what was in store, since there were 13 ties and 24 lead changes.
The final tie came at 101-101 when reserve forward Tony Brown of the Pacers scored on a layup with 2:22 to play. Then it was time for the experience of the Bullets, particularly their guards, to pay off against the youngest team in the league.
Jeff Malone gave the Bullets the lead for good at 103-101 on a short jumper from the corner. Then, following a miss by Clark Kellogg, Malone and Williams teamed to increase the lead to four.
With the shot clock nearing zero, the Bullets' Cliff Robinson was forced to take a tough shot from the side. It missed and Malone rebounded, sending the ball back out to Williams. Sixteen seconds later, Williams drove the lane and put up a little running hook shot that found nothing but net. It was 105-101 with 1:16 left.
"That was a big, big play," said Pacers Coach George Irvine. Shue said, "You have to make the big plays in this league or you don't win."
Williams is expected to take that kind of shot and make it. But before the basket, he had missed four straight from the field and looked as if he was struggling.
"I just had the shot," he explained. "The play was called for me and I had my man beat one on one so I took the shot and hit the bucket. Those four misses were really no big deal. Those were normal shots for me and I didn't miss by much -- but I did miss. As a matter of fact, one of those misses was a layup."
The Pacers still were not out of it. But rookie guard Vern Fleming was called for an offensive foul and Malone got two free throws after that to wrap it up.
Williams led the Bullets with 26 points and Malone had 23.
The Bullets, who had lost three straight before the two victories, will play at Clevland Tuesday.