Despite excelling at the fast-break, offense-oriented style of the NBA's Western Conference for much of the game, the Washington Bullets were beaten by the Golden State Warriors, 109-105, tonight before 10,125 at Oakland Coliseum Arena.
Ironically, the Warriors won the game mainly through the use of physical force, which is traditionally found in the Eastern Conference. Trailing by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, the Warriors first cut their deficit with some superior shooting, then took the victory with some outstanding rebounding.
Forward Larry Smith scored eight of his 10 points in the final quarter, all after offensive rebounds. Former Georgetown guard Eric (Sleepy) Floyd also was a major contributor, scoring 25 points, including the final four of the night: a reverse layup in heavy traffic with 11 seconds remaining to break a 105-105 tie and a pair of free throws with two seconds left to seal the victory.
"Tonight I saw the emotion I've always yearned for," said Golden State Coach John Bach. "We were not going to shy away. We wanted to take it right to them and we beat a very good team."
That wouldn't have happened, however, without center Joe Barry Carroll and forward Purvis Short, however. Responding to a strong challenge by the Bullets' Manute Bol, Carroll scored 34 points and Short had 26.
"They got all the loose balls and big rebounds," said Washington Coach Gene Shue. "Although Joe Barry had a great game both scoring and rebounding, I thought Manute played him well. This was a hard loss -- we had chances to win it."
Washington got a variety of good performances, although they didn't stop the team from sliding to 24-27 on the season.
Bullets guard Jeff Malone continued his torrid shooting with 36 points. Darren Daye and Dan Roundfield performed well off the bench and Bol, showing his most eclectic offense of the season, scored 14 points to go along with eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Bullets were once again without center-forward Jeff Ruland, sitting out with a tender right ankle. When asked if he expected him back any time soon, Shue didn't seem optimistic.
"He says there's pain, and if there's pain then he's not going to play," said the coach. "I hardly think about it now."
For the second consecutive game, the Bullets played as if they weren't thinking about their linchpin very much either, taking a 32-24 lead that was surprising in that it was built with a sizable number of fast-break baskets and included six points from Bol.
The running and gunning visitors increased their lead to 40-26 two minutes into the second quarter, a lineup of Roundfield, Charles Jones, Daye, Leon Wood and Malone doing the bulk of the damage. The half ended with the Bullets ahead by just 60-56, however. What was at one time a 14-point lead was slashed by the play of Carroll and Short, who had 21 and 19 points in the half, respectively.
The Bullets increased their lead to 72-62 with 6:51 to play in the third period. As they did in the opening half, though, the Warriors rallied, scoring 10 straight points to tie the game.
After three periods, Washington was in front by a point, 83-82. The Bullets still led going into the final two minutes of the game before the Warriors followed Floyd's lead to pull out the victory.
"Our talent is not getting us over; we need a little extra effort to win," Floyd said. "We tried to put more pressure on them defensively, and then J.B. and Purvis got on a roll."