Gene Shue was downright bubbly. His Washington Bullets had just pulled from the fire their third victory in a row and fifth in their last six games. They nearly blew the game in the last minute, but that didn't really matter.
"You could say that was a very hard game," he said last night after the Bullets defeated the Phoenix Suns, 114-112, before only 4,973 fans at Capital Centre.
If anybody had tickets and decided to watch "The Cosby Show" instead, he may have made the wrong choice.
The Bullets, who twice led by 11 points earlier in the game, were leading by 107-98 with 2:23 to go in the game. They probably figured this one was in the bag.
"No lead is safe in the NBA," Shue said. He was right.
With 1:01 to go, the Suns tied the game at 109 when sixth man Mike Sanders made a three-point play.
Shue then put Dudley Bradley in the game for Leon Wood. It was one of those defensive moves that wouldn't show up in the box score.
Jeff Malone made two free throws with 56 seconds left for a 111-109 lead. After a timeout, Phoenix cleared out for Walter Davis, who took Bradley to the hole and came up big. He made the basket and the free throw that went with it for 112-111 lead -- the Suns' first since the first quarter -- with 32 seconds remaining.
The Bullets scrambled. Wood, who had reentered, missed, as did Malone and Cliff Robinson. But Dan Roundfield (12 points and 11 rebounds) rebounded and put it back up, and rookie Ed Pinckney was called for goaltending with 10 seconds left.
Another timeout for Phoenix and another try for Davis one on one against Bradley. But this time, Bradley won. Davis' running jumper from eight feet bounded off, and in the scramble for the rebound, Malone was fouled.
He made a free throw for the last of his 31 points and the final margin.
"I'm just thankful we came out of it," Shue said.
"I was trying to make him drive," Bradley said. "The first time I didn't get any help, but I did the second time. But I'd rather have him drive than shoot that jumper. That jumper is deadly."
Malone led the Bullets with his 31 points. Wood scored 21 and Robinson 16.
Manute Bol had 12 points, 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots before fouling out with 4:30 left.
"Manute had an incredible game," Shue said.
"That was a real good win," Bol said. "We played real well."
In the first quarter, Malone's three-pointer gave the Bullets a 3-2 lead, but Phoenix took a 7-3 lead with 9:57 left.
The Bullets tied the game at 9, 11, 13 and 15 before Bol gave Washington the lead by jamming home a miss by Gus Williams. The Bullets' patterned offense involved -- or rather didn't involve -- Bol; he usually stayed beyond the three-point circle. The Suns' James Edwards was trying to stay close to the middle, which led the Bullets' coaches to complain about a zone defense.
That would be the Bullets' last lead of the quarter as the Suns twice went ahead by five. But the Bullets outscored the Suns by 9-4 in the last 2:48 to even the score at 30. Malone had four points in that stretch and nine in the quarter.
He started the second period just as he did the first, with a three-point play on a driving layup off a feed from Wood.
But this time, the Bullets held on to the lead that Malone gave them. In this period, though, it was Darren Daye who carried much of the offensive load.
With Jeff Ruland missing from the lineup, much of the Bullets' offense has consisted of clearing out and letting somebody go one on one. In the second period, Daye did.
After Bol got a technical for an illegal defense, Roundfield, Wood (twice) and Malone scored to give the Bullets a 41-34 lead with 9:15 left.
Bol blocked Davis' shot, which started a fast break that ended with Daye scoring his first basket, with 8:55 left, for a 43-34 lead. Daye would have 12 of the Bullets' last 20 points of the quarter.
Daye's two free throws gave the Bullets their largest lead at 57-46 with 3:14 left.
But the run ran out a bit. The Suns outscored the Bullets by 12-6 the rest of the way, and Jay Humphries, the Suns' rookie point guard from Colorado, scored the last two baskets of the half, leaving the Bullets with a 63-59 halftime lead.
Shue said Ruland may be at Friday's practice.
"On the way out (of the building)," Shue said, "Jeff said, 'I'll see you tomorrow (Friday).' " Rockets 124, Kings 107
Ralph Sampson was ejected from the game, but Akeem Olajuwon and Robert Reid led the victory over Sacramento that made the Rockets 22-1 in Houston this season.
The Kings had won three straight.
Olajuwon, playing with four fouls throughout the fourth quarter, scored 22 points. Reid led all scorers with 23 points.
LaSalle Thompson led the Kings with 22 points and Eddie Johnson had 21, including 13 in the second half.
Sampson helped the Rockets to a 59-53 halftime lead with 12 points and five rebounds. But he was ejected with 7:05 to go in the third quarter after receiving two technical fouls. Sacramento's Otis Thorpe recived a technical moments earlier after scuffling with Sampson under the Rockets' basket. Sampson then fouled Thorpe and was ejected when he protested. Nets 106, Jazz 105
Otis Birdsong provided the winning points in the game in Salt Lake City with a jump shot with a minute left.
Utah's Adrian Dantley, who had 36 points, missed a foul shot with four seconds remaining that could have sent the game into overtime.
After Birdsong's last basket, Dantley made a field goal and was fouled by Darryl Dawkins. Dantley, an 82 percent free-throw shooter, made only the first. Trail Blazers 117, SuperSonics 107
Steve Colter scored six points in the second overtime as Portland handed visiting Seattle its sixth straight loss.
Portland's Terry Porter forced overtime with a layup with four seconds left. Colter made a layup with seven seconds left in the first extra period to force the second overtime.