The New Jersey Nets shackled the Washington Bullets at Capital Centre last night. The Nets had more field goals, more rebounds, more assists and more steals, but they couldn't wrest the victory from Washington Coach Gene Shue.
With his team trailing by three points and 18 rebounds entering the fourth quarter, Shue decided he needed more rebounding. So he yanked 7-foot-7 center Manute Bol and inserted 6-9 Charles Jones.
The Bullets outrebounded New Jersey, 16-8, that quarter and outscored the Nets, 27-14, to come away with a 99-89 victory.
Said Shue: "When we face a good outside-shooting center like Mike Gminski, it reduces Manute's effectiveness because he has to come out from the basket. We need him inside.
"I countered by going with a smaller lineup that enables us to do more things, run more plays and execute better. Everything picked up."
The Bullets overcame a 75-72 deficit at the start of the fourth quarter when they scored six straight points despite missing their first five shots. Their running game helped produce fouls on three consecutive possessions, and Gus Williams, Dan Roundfield and Kevin McKenna made the six free throws before Buck Williams and Gminski scored to put New Jersey ahead, 79-78.
The Bullets earned the lead for good at 81-79 on Jeff Ruland's driving basket, their first of the period. He finished with 23 points to complement Jeff Malone's 25 but left the floor with more injury problems.
"I'm hurting," he said. "My ankle's bothering me, I've got slight back problems, and I twisted my knee. Not too many more things can happen."
He spoke in a soft monotone in the Bullets' quiet locker room. Down the hallway, New Jersey forward Mickey Johnson (0-for-8 shooting in 29 minutes) put his fist through a blackboard and exchanged hostile words with Coach Dave Wohl.
The incident forgotten, Wohl explained the loss: "I can't fault our effort. Malone is very tough to play. He made two very tough shots at the end, and we didn't make ours."
Malone's points came with the Bullets ahead, 88-87. He dropped in a driving one-hander for a three-point lead. Buck Williams' drive cut New Jersey's deficit to two, but Roundfield scored off Gus Williams' miss, and Malone followed with a driving shot to make it 95-89 with 1:53 to go. The Nets failed on four three-point attempts to fall to 30-29, two games ahead of the Bullets (27-30) in the Atlantic Division.
For the game, New Jersey led in field goals, 41-40, in rebounds, 49-39, assists, 27-22 and steals, 9-5. They were led by Gminski's 19 points and Williams' 18 rebounds.
" Buck Williams gets my vote for the best forward in the league," said Roundfield.
The Nets had led by five in the third quarter, when guards Otis Birdsong and Micheal Ray Richardson totaled 18 of the team's 24 points. They were aided in their rebounding edge when Cliff Robinson committed his third foul 5:14 into the game. The Nets outrebounded the Bullets by 14-6 in each of the first two quarters.
Wohl started Gminski at center, King and Richardson at guards and Williams and Johnson at forwards. But with 9:26 remaining in the second period, he moved King to forward and inserted guard Darwin Cook, and the Nets outscored Washington, 13-4, over the ensuing 4:12 to establish their largest lead of the first half, 41-34.
Although there was a total of 4,340 tickets sold, there were only 1,711 at Capital Centre on the snowy night.
Those who showed up were invited to change their seats to a better location and were to be given free tickets for Thursday night's game against Golden State.