Playing without Moses Malone and Jeff Malone, but playing an even more unfortunate team, the Washington Bullets got a season-high 34 points, nine assists and eight rebounds from Bernard King and beat the New Jersey Nets, 126-117, in overtime last night at Capital Centre.
The Bullets broke a three-game losing streak and improved to 18-25. In replacing Moses Malone, who chipped a bone in his left wrist during Sunday's NBA all-star game, Manute Bol scored six points, blocked five shots and cleared a season-high 12 rebounds.
Jeff Malone participated in warm-ups but returned to the locker room and sat out with an irritated right eye. Frank Johnson started and scored a season-high 23 points.
"My eye just couldn't keep the contact in," Jeff Malone said. "It was getting watery and I couldn't see, I thought it would just be better to sit this one out." He is expected to travel with the Bullets to Cleveland, where they face the Cavaliers Wednesday night.
New Jersey (10-35) was led by Orlando Woolridge's 24 points and Buck Williams' 22.
"That's the way it is, the way it has to be for us," said Bullets Coach Wes Unseld of his players' multiple contributions. "For us to win, everybody has to step forward."
That included guard Steve Colter, who chipped in six points in the overtime, which began at 105-105. Nets guard John Bagley scored over Colter to put the visitors ahead, but Colter responded seconds later with a driving layup, plus a free throw after he was fouled. With four minutes to play, King scored his final points on a layup after a pass from Colter.
Bagley hit two foul shots to make the score 110-109 but King and Colter combined for another layup, King making the assist. From there, Washington scored six of the next seven points to ice the game.
"This was a very tough loss," said Nets Coach Bob MacKinnon. "We thought before the game with both Malones out we had an excellent shot at winning. We came back strong and expected to win the game." It would have been New Jersey's second road victory since last March.
Washington led for virtually the entire game until a three-point jumper by former Bullet Kevin McKenna gave the visitors a 91-90 lead. From there, it seemed both teams were more interested in giving the game away than winning it.
The Bullets trailed, 103-102, with 29 seconds left, when Tyrone Bogues fouled Bagley as the Nets guard was dribbling almost 30 feet away from the basket with 10 seconds left on the 24-second shot clock. The free throws gave New Jersey a 105-102 advantage but the Nets couldn't handle prosperity. With 17 seconds left, Johnson was fouled. He missed one, made one, then Washington went into a press. Roy Hinson's inbounds pass was knocked away by King, with Johnson recovering and finding John Williams for a layup that forced overtime.
The Bullets' skid coming in was composed of three losses by a combined total of seven points, defeats that a more poised, cerebral team might have avoided. That was with both Malones. Last season, the duo accounted for 40 percent of the team's offense, yet there was precedent on the side of the home team.
When Moses Malone missed a number of games last season with a sore ankle, knee and neck, Bol stepped in and averaged 9.9 rebounds in 12 games as a starter. In his first starting role, against the Indiana Pacers last Feb. 26, the 7-foot-6 player registered a triple double of 19 rebounds, 15 blocked shots and 10 points.
Bol began last night as if headed for a similar performance, ending the opening quarter with four points and six retrieves. That helped the Bullets to a 29-22 first quarter and 58-50 halftime advantage.
"The big thing isn't starting. If you come off the bench and play a lot it's the same thing," he said. "I want to play but I don't want something happening to my friends. Mo would have scored 20 points; I got six, that's a big difference in a game."
That certainly would have been the case last season, but that was before King became a part of the Bullets scene. While Bol controlled the backboards, King slashed his way to the basket for 20 first-half points.
After intermission, the Nets began double-teaming the forward, limiting him to six points in each of the third and fourth quarters and two in the overtime.
However, King had six of his assists during those same 29 minutes and his presence made it decidedly easier for his teammates to gain open shots.
"We knew we'd be kind of slack on offense tonight and that we'd have to go to him," said Unseld. "We knew that they would start doubling him too, but B can pass it through and he moved the ball well."