NEW YORK, OCT. 31 -- With Coach Kevin Loughery's plan of playing his regular lineup down the stretch gone out the window due to injuries to center Moses Malone and forward Jay Vincent, the Washington Bullets nevertheless won their first exhibition game of the season tonight, 102-96, over the New Jersey Nets at Madison Square Garden.
"It felt great to help get that first win," said guard Michael Adams. "We desperately needed it to get everyone in the right frame of mind."
Adams was just one of a number of Washington reserves to play a major role in the late going of tonight's contest, the Bullets' first victory in six exhibition games. The 5-foot-11 point guard had 10 points and seven assists in the game -- nine of the points and five of the assists came in the fourth quarter.
Forward/center Jay Murphy had 14 points off the bench for the Bullets, eight in the final period, and rookie guard Dale Blaney made a strong bid to earn a spot on the final roster, scoring six of his eight points in the period. Terry Catledge led Washington with 20 points, two more than John Williams. Former Maryland star Buck Williams had 19 points and 14 rebounds for New Jersey and Mike Gminski added 18 points.
The strong efforts by nominally supporting players came at a very opportune time. The start of the regular season is less than a week away and, with forward Bernard King due in camp on Sunday and the signings of veteran free agents Frank Johnson, Charles Jones and Darwin Cook always possible, there's not a lot of time to make a good impression.
Center Moses Malone is suffering from a sore Achilles' tendon while Vincent, the subject of increasing trade rumors, has been experiencing back spasms. In addition, forward Tony Campbell is out with a broken nose.
"It's make or break time for a lot of people. We've gotta see something from these guys," said Loughery. "There are open spots but these guys have to produce."
Washington trailed, 49-42, at halftime but rallied behind Catledge, Williams and guard Jeff Malone to take a 74-70 lead into the final period.
Unlike in their previous contests, the Bullets failed to cave in, mainly because they continued to score from the perimeter. They fell behind, 77-76, but Adams, Blaney and Murphy all hit long jumpers to help the visitors go ahead, 86-79, with 7:50 remaining. The Bullets were able to answer any threat from New Jersey with a flurry of points.
"I thought we played pretty well last night, too," said Loughery, referring to a 93-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in Baltimore on Friday. "Tonight, we finally shot well going down the stretch. Murphy's had two good games in a row and Adams showed a lot of good things out there."
There was also center Manute Bol. Playing extended minutes in Moses Malone's absence, the third-year player scored but a single point yet dominated the action for long stretches with his 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
"We would have gotten blown out without Manute Bol," said Loughery.
Like most of his teammates, Bol was merely happy with his part in finally coming away with a victory.
"I always get the minutes in the exhibition games. I'd like to get them and have Moses playing, too," he said. "I'm glad we won, even if I don't score. I'll get some rebounds and play some defense and let the other guys shoot it."