The Washington Bullets overcame an amazing offensive performance by Atlanta's Dominique Wilkins last night to pull off a 135-129 overtime victory over the Hawks at Capital Centre.
Wilkins, the NBA's second-leading scorer entering the game, came out of it with the league lead. He scored 46 points, tying an arena record (set by Elvin Hayes against Buffalo in 1975), establishing a record for a Bullets opponent and raising his average to 29.86. Scoring on a variety of spinning and twirling moves, the forward surprisingly eschewed his bread and butter -- the slam dunk -- for most of the game.
The star of the show in that regard was Washington's Dan Roundfield. Two drives through traffic for powerful slams set up the veteran forward's performance in the extra period, when he scored half of the Bullets' 18 points. For the game, Roundfield had a season-high 29 points in leading the Bullets in one of their more impressive offensive showings of the season.
One night after getting his season high for points against the New Jersey Nets, guard Gus Williams set a mark for assists, registering 15. Williams also scored 24 points. Cliff Robinson and Jeff Malone also cracked the 20-point mark, with 31 and 27, respectively.
"Last night against the Nets was a tough game, very emotional," said Washington Coach Kevin Loughery. "Tonight, we played a tough team and they played well but we hung in there and won it."
In improving their season record to 37-41 and tying the Nets for third place in the Atlantic Division, the Bullets added some impressive ball movement in their half-court offense to the fast break that was the main tactic against New Jersey. In addition, the winners proved adept at keeping the Hawks' powerful front-court players off the backboards.
One sign of that effectiveness was the fact that three Hawks -- Tree Rollins, Kevin Willis and Jon Koncak -- fouled out. Another was that Washington, which was outrebounded, 63-46, in a 107-91 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday, emerged with a 47-45 edge last night. Roundfield was again in the forefront in that category, grabbing 16 rebounds.
The most notable plays by the former Hawks player were his slam-dunks. The first brought Washington to within two, 110-108, with 2:16 remaining in the fourth quarter, and the second, which included a free throw after he was fouled, put the team in front, 113-111, less than a minute later.
What probably was most important, however, was Roundfield's defensive work on Wilkins in the extra session. Loughery said the Bullets actually double-teamed the four-year veteran less in the overtime than they did during the first 48 minutes. Perhaps expecting extra pressure on Wilkins, the Hawks seemed to move away from him offensively. In the overtime, Wilkins took just one shot.
"I can't imagine that I got just one shot," said Wilkins. "It was just hard to get shots off . . . before that I was really feeling good. I was in my rhythm. I thought I could get into the lane anytime I wanted to and, when I feel like that, I think I can go on anyone."
That was certainly the case against the Bullets last night, although Roundfield took a certain measure of pride in the outcome.
"He got 46 but I know that he can't feel too good about the result," said Roundfield. "I know that I can't possibly score 46 points, but I just tried to make him work harder on offense. I didn't do anything special."
There was nothing anyone could have done against Wilkins in regulation play, particularly in the fourth quarter when the all-star brought the Hawks back from a 104-99 deficit by scoring 11 straight points, putting the Hawks up, 110-108, with 2:31 left. But that only set the stage for Roundfield's heroics.
"Their veterans are giving them a big lift," said Hawks Coach Mike Fratello. "It's the small things that make the big difference in close games, and tonight they got the small things done very well." Should that continue, the Bullets may find themselves peaking just in time for the playoffs. At least that's what Loughery is hoping.
"I just couldn't ask for more if we continue to play with that intensity for the duration of the season and continue in the playoffs," he said. "Whether we play Philly or Milwaukee, we'll be underdogs. That doesn't matter to me. If we can keep this drive, we'll be all right."
*Celtics 119, Knicks 98: Boston outscored New York, 20-5, in the last 7:08 of the first half and, behind Kevin McHale's 25 points, cruised to a record-setting 38th home win.
Boston brought its winning streak to 14 games, longest in the NBA this season, and extended to 29 its league record for consecutive home victories in a season.
With their 38th home victory against just one loss, the Celtics set another NBA mark, surpassing the totals reached by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1976-77 and 1979-80 and the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977-78 and 1980-81.
*76ers 122, Cavaliers 102: Charles Barkley scored 27 points, grabbed 22 rebounds and had 10 assists in leading Philadelphia over visiting Cleveland.
It was the 76ers' third straight win and the eighth in their last 10 games. It was Cleveland's third straight loss and cut its lead over Chicago for a playoff spot to one game.
*Rockets 112, Suns 89: Robert Reid scored 20 points to lead a balanced Houston offense as the Rockets clinched the Midwest Division title with the victory in Phoenix.
*Bucks 115, Pistons 108: Terry Cummings and Ricky Pierce combined for 49 points as Milwaukee won on the road.