With the sound of boos from a crowd of 11,830 ringing in their ears, the Washington Bullets fell behind by 12 points early in the fourth quarter, scored 19 straight points in a five-minute span to regain the lead, then blew it by reverting to the form that caused them to fall behind in the first place. Eventually, however, they came away with a 113-111 overtime victory over the New York Knicks at Capital Centre.
With the win, the Bullets improved to 30-33 and gained some retribution for a 119-83 loss to New York two nights earlier.
For that, they have Jeff Malone and Cliff Robinson to thank. Malone, the all-star guard, missed Tuesday's game because of a stomach virus but scored 31 last night -- including five in overtime.
The man who scored the go-ahead basket and added a free throw to boot was Robinson, who finished with 24 points as well as several game-saving plays.
However, the last game-saving play belonged to guard Kevin McKenna, who retrieved a loose ball while falling flat on his back out of bounds and passed it off Charles Jones' shoulder to Malone. Malone, who seconds earlier had almost accidentally tipped the ball into the Knicks' basket, was already on his back. He cradled the ball and time expired.
This all happened after Robinson made a free throw with nine seconds left that turned out to be the last point of the night. Two seconds earlier, he had grabbed an offensive rebound after Jones missed two straight from the line.
After a New York timeout, the Knicks hustled the ball up the floor, with James Bailey -- who sent the game into overtime with one of two free throws with no time left on the clock -- taking a leaning shot from the lane. The shot didn't miss by much but wasn't nearly as close as Malone's inadvertent tip.
There were still three seconds left on the clock. If the ball landed out of bounds, the Knicks would have been in position for another attempt, but McKenna's quick reaction spared the Bullets that misfortune.
"It was a very exciting game," said Washington Coach Gene Shue in an understatement. "In the overtime, we were just able to hang in there."
Former Georgetown center Patrick Ewing played only nine minutes after reinjuring his right knee. Even so, the Bullets found themselves befuddled for most of the night by the Knicks, who would surely have a far better record than 20-42 if they were able to play Washington every night.
"They made us look bad with their traps," said Shue. That, too, was an understatement.
Although they were not as helpless as they seemed to be Tuesday, the Bullets had 24 turnovers. Down by 87-75, they lost the ball on consecutive possessions with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter.
Then Washington came alive, scoring 19 straight points.
Malone scored 10 of them, and Gus Williams (21 points) added six, hitting a three-point field goal and a three-point play. Meanwhile, it was New York's turn to founder. The Knicks did not score again until 3:44 remained in regulation.
In between, the Knicks committed five turnovers, had six personal fouls and missed seven straight shots from the field.
The Knicks were able to climb back into the game mainly because of four Washington turnovers between the 2:58 and 1:07 marks of the fourth quarter.
Robinson scored the last four Washington points in regulation, the first two on a spectacular offensive rebound tip-in after Williams had missed a pair of free throws. The points gave Washington a 100-97 lead with 48 seconds to play.
Tucker came back with two from the line to draw the Knicks within one with 33 seconds left.
With eight seconds to play, New York had possession of the ball and guard Darrell Walker was barreling toward the basket.
The ball never got to the rim, though, as it was stripped from Walker just before he rose toward the basket. After it was kicked around, Bailey scooped it up and got off a layup attempt.
The shot missed and the horn sounded, but referee Jeff Thompson nevertheless whistled Jones for a personal.
Then the noise in Capital Centre worked in the Bullets' favor. Standing all alone at the free-throw line with the remaining nine players pushed to the side, Bailey missed his first attempt, but made the second to force overtime.
"I didn't think much of that call," said Shue. "With free throws, all you can do is hope. We were fortunate that he only made one." In other NBA games last night, Ralph Sampson scored 35 points to lead the Houston Rockets over the Sacramento Kings, 116-105; Mark Aguirre scored 28 points as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Clippers, 131-113, and Magic Johnson had 30 points as the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Golden State Warriors, 112-111.