The Washington Bullets found temporary relief for their distressed shooting last night, and the Golden State Warriors obligingly provided the antidote.
The Bullets displayed their version of direct deposit against Golden State's alleged defense in the fourth quarter, missing only three shots in defeating the Warriors, 114-102, before 8,125 at Capital Centre.
The Warriors played without top scorer Purvis Short (tendinitis in his right knee) and the Bullets without forward Jeff Ruland (strained left knee), neither of whom suited up. A team spokesman said Ruland will not play at Milwaukee tonight or against the Bucks at Capital Centre on Sunday, when he is scheduled to be reexamined by a team physician.
Once again, Jeff Malone and Cliff Robinson breathed life into the Bullets when their lead approached exhaustion. After Golden State center Joe Barry Carroll scored two of his team-high 30 points to cut Washington's lead to 94-90 with 5:12 left in the game, Robinson scored five consecutive points and Malone the next six to seal Golden State's all-too-familiar fate.
Malone scored 10 of Washington's final 15 points to top all scorers with 33 on 14-for-23 shooting. Robinson had 21 points and 13 rebounds.
"They play more of a sagging, trapping defense," Malone said. "When they do that, you have to exploit it with isolation [plays]."
But this was no two-man show. The Bullets received important efforts from substitutes Dan Roundfield (16 points), Tom McMillen (12) and Leon Wood (nine points, seven assists).
Roundfield and the sore-footed McMillen were summoned when starters Manute Bol and Charles Jones committed their fourth fouls midway through the third quarter, which had begun in a 48-48 tie. After missing his first three attempts, McMillen hit a base line jumper to cut a Golden State lead to 64-63 and made all five of his shots thereafter. Three of those baskets came after Wood streaked upcourt and found McMillen with crisp passes.
"We talked about that play before the game," McMillen said. "When [Wood] can break by his man real easily, the play clicks.
"My foot is still sore. I can't plant real well, which is why I'm having problems with my hook shot. But I can shoot the straight jumper."
Washington Coach Gene Shue said, "You have to utilize Tom's ability; he's a great outside shooter. What it takes is a player who is able to beat his player up the floor and pass off. Leon made some great passes."
Wood had four assists in the final quarter, when the Bullets made 11 of 14 shots and outscored the Warriors, 35-26.
With 11:12 remaining, Golden State produced its only lead of the quarter, 80-79, on Terry Teagle's 12-foot turnaround jumper. Washington countered with six straight points, as McMillen scored and Roundfield had a basket and two free throws for an 85-80 advantage.
Geoff Huston's two free throws made it 85-82, but the Bullets scored seven of the next nine for an eight-point lead, and the Warriors never got within four thereafter.
The scene was hauntingly familiar to Golden State Coach John Bach, whose team is 19-42 -- worst in the NBA. Over the past two seasons, Bach's scores have been written in the Key of Defeat. The sad song: 41 wins, 102 losses, .287 winning percentage.
"We knew we couldn't use single coverage on Malone, and the gambling still didn't work -- McMillen hurt us," Bach said. "We forced too many shots and couldn't get any easy baskets."
Said Malone, "Our defense is a lot more aggressive than theirs."
The defeat assures the Warriors of a sub-.500 season, their seventh in eight years.
With the victory, Washington is 28-31, 18 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the Atlantic Division and 1 1/2 games behind third-place New Jersey. Rockets 117, Nuggets 111
Ralph Sampson scored 31 points, Robert Reid provided 23 and Lewis Lloyd led a 21-7 third-quarter rally with eight as Houston won at home over Denver.
Houston broke a six-game Denver winning streak and extended its Midwest Division lead over the Nuggets to 2 1/2 games.
Alex English paced Denver with 35 points.
At 7:17 of the third quarter, the Nuggets threatened to pull away at 76-64, but Rodney McCray's alley-oop dunk two minutes later narrowed it to 76-72. Houston closed to 81-80 on Lloyd's dunk and two free throws, tied at 83 on Reid's basket and went ahead, 85-83, on Lloyd's dunk assisted by John Lucas. Jazz 109, Pacers 92
In Salt Lake City, Adrian Dantley scored 36 points in 28 minutes of play as Utah Jazz built an early lead and repelled a third-quarter rally by Indiana.
The victory was the fourth in a row for the Jazz, who climbed to the .500 mark at 30-30.
The Jazz led by as much as 59-43 late in the first half and by 61-47, at intermission, Dantley leading the way with 23 points.
The Pacers started the second half with a 15-4 run to within 65-62. The Jazz pulled away again to an 85-73 lead at quarter's end. SuperSonics 107, Trail Blazers 94
Center Jack Sikma, playing on a sore knee, scored 20 points and acquired 13 rebounds as Seattle, at home, ended a four-game losing streak and extended Portland's run of defeats to 12, one shy of the club record.
Sikma, out two games after suffering a hyperextended right knee Feb. 19, scored 14 points in the second half. The Blazers pulled within 91-88 with 3:46 to play, but Sikma scored five points in the next two minutes to help Seattle open a 13-point lead.