Timing is everything, and for the past two weeks it has been everything bad for the Washington Bullets. Tonight at the Silverdome, that point was underscored in their sixth straight defeat, a 124-122 overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons.
The Bullets lost a 15-point lead during a maddening eight-minute stretch of the final quarter, yet there wasn't the collective swoon that characterized their previous losses. In the three before tonight the Bullets (2-6) blew halftime leads ranging from seven to 10 points. Tonight they extended a 54-47 edge to 15 points before Detroit rallied.
Much of the difference from those other losses was generated by Dan Roundfield. The forward was taunted by a number of the 9,379 spectators, but the 10-year veteran silenced most with a 25-point, 12-rebound effort as a substitute.
"I didn't come here to prove anything," said the forward, who spent a disappointing, injury-plagued season with Detroit last year. "I have no animosity toward Detroit. We came up here as a team to win."
There were 22 points each from Gus Williams and Jeff Ruland, who also had 12 rebounds. Darren Daye, starting his second game at small forward, scored 13 points and had eight rebounds. However, it wasn't enough to overcome Isiah Thomas' 32 points and 10 assists.
The Bullets received their biggest blow trailing, 108-106, with 40 seconds left in regulation. Roundfield was fouled in the act of shooting by Detroit's Bill Laimbeer (28 points, 21 rebounds). After making his first shot, he was given the ball by referee Jim Capers and hit what looked to be a game-tying shot.
However, the official waved off the basket, saying that while he was delivering the ball to Roundfield, a member of the Pistons called for a timeout. Capers said he told that to Roundfield, who shot the ball anyway.
After the Detroit timeout, Roundfield's new second attempt spun around the rim and came out.
Trailing, 111-109, with seven seconds to play but without any timeouts left, Washington ran a play more befitting a sandlot game of touch football. Williams ran from the right side of the baseline to the left, then threw the ball back to Roundfield, standing out of bounds.
Roundfield then threw the ball in to Ruland, the only Bullet who could break free. Ruland rumbled downcourt, crossed the center line and attempted a pass to Dudley Bradley, who was streaking forward. The toss seemed to be headed out of bounds, but Bradley grabbed it and threw it back toward the basket in a half-shot, half-pass.
Whatever it was, the ball, now hovering above the lane, was redirected toward the basket by Ruland. The shot went in at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, Washington went on top, 114-111, when Williams hit a three-point play. But with the Pistons connecting on six of nine shots and adding an offensive rebound basket, there was no margin for error.
The teams traded scores for most of the overtime, Thomas leading the way with five points. Detroit took a 124-122 lead with 22 seconds left on a long jumper by forward Tony Campbell. The Bullets then took a timeout to set up a play.
After the break, Jeff Malone missed a jumper. The Bullets got a second chance, though, when the ball went out of bounds off a Detroit player with five seconds left. They had a hard time inbounding, however, and Williams could only get off a three-point attempt from deep in the right corner. The shot fell short and Campbell gathered in the rebound to end the game.
"It doesn't seem like anything's in the cards for us," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue. "We certainly played well enough to win, but we're not getting what we need to win at the right time.