EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., NOV. 15 -- During a timeout early in the first quarter of tonight's game against New Jersey at Brendan Byrne Arena, Washington Bullets Coach Kevin Loughery berated, blistered and even begged his team to stop the Nets' offense. It was a plea that really went unanswered most of the game, but the visitors somehow came away with their second consecutive victory, 113-109.
Perhaps the only player who could look Loughery in the eye after the game was rookie point guard Tyrone Bogues. That is, he could have if his left eye weren't nearly shut after receiving an elbow from former Maryland star Buck Williams, also in the first quarter.
The blow opened a gash over the eye and required four stitches. When he hit the floor, Bogues landed on his left arm, suffering a strain. He didn't return to the game, sitting in street clothes after halftime. Afterward, however, he said he expected to be ready for Washington's back-to-back games against the Bulls in Chicago on Tuesday and at Capital Centre Wednesday.
Against the Nets, center Moses Malone scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, Jeff Malone had 25 points, including a clutch jump shot with 28 seconds left, and forward Bernard King provided 21 points. Despite the offensive potency, the biggest factor might have been reserve center Manute Bol. At times playing in tandem with Moses Malone, the 7-foot-6 veteran had eight rebounds, blocked five shots and even scored six points.
The strained left knee that kept Bol out of the Bullets' first three games had precluded until now the team's use of a twin-tower alignment. By game's end, though, after alternately grasping at straws as well as his silvery hair, Loughery was just about ready to try anything.
At times in the closing minutes, the Bullets had Bol and Moses Malone alternating at power forward, John Williams playing small forward and Darrell Walker playing point guard. If the Bullets had the ball, King was quickly inserted into the game.
"Everyone was out of position, we really were kind of making up plays for guys in the huddle," Loughery said. "I knew that it wouldn't be very pretty, but we were trying to hold on."
Their ability to do so got them to 2-3 and dropped the Nets to 0-4 for the season. The remaining winless team in the NBA was led tonight by Williams, a dominating power forward who had 23 points and 19 rebounds. Orlando Woolridge, playing in his first game this season after recovering from a lacerated finger, scored 22 points.
The Bullets led, 104-97, with four minutes to play but Woolridge hit two free throws, Buck Williams got a dunk and then another basket when Bol was called for goaltending. That made it 104-103 with 2:38 remaining.
On the subsequent possession, Walker barely beat the 24-second clock with an off-balance jumper, but Woolridge responded with two free throws. Twenty-one seconds after that, Moses Malone came up with his ninth offensive rebound and scored on a layup to put the lead at 108-105.
At one point during his opening-quarter harangue, Loughery offered $1,000 to any Washington player willing to take a defensive charge. Yet, with just over a minute to play, Woolridge was driving the lane for what seemed an easy layup. Somehow the shot rolled off the rim.
The Bullets took a timeout to set up what they hoped would be a clinching score. The plan nearly blew up when they couldn't get into an offensive set, and Moses Malone was forced to take an off-balance heave that didn't come close to going into the basket. With 45 seconds left, Nets guard Otis Birdsong hit a jumper from the top of the key to make the score 108-107.
On their next possession, Jeff Malone bailed the Bullets out, scoring on a tough shot over Woolridge, who switched onto the guard after a pick.
"We had a pick and roll set up and I was determined to take the shot," Malone said. "I knew I had missed my three previous shots but I wanted to take that one."
The Nets once again were able to answer, though, scoring on a Mike Gminski jumper with 22 seconds to go. Immediately going into a trap, the Nets fouled John Williams, who was shooting only 50 percent from the foul line entering the game. This time, both attempts went cleanly through the net.
The shots with 17 seconds remaining made the score 112-109.
That forced New Jersey into a three-point attempt. Finally, the Bullets came up with a strong defensive stance. Woolridge's three-point shot missed badly and John Williams rebounded with six seconds left. The Bullets forward hit one of two free throws to end the scoring.
"It was two teams trying to seek their identities out there," Loughery said. "We need an awful lot of work offensively to get some familiarity. I don't feel I really know the team. It's gonna take a while."