ATLANTA, FEB. 13 -- Falling prey to two offensive foul calls and a couple of other controversial calls in the closing minutes, the Washington Bullets dropped a heartbreaking 105-103 decision to the Atlanta Hawks tonight before a sellout Omni crowd of 16,451.
The winning points, by guard Glenn (Doc) Rivers on a jumper from the top of the key with two seconds left, were set up when Bullets forward Bernard King was called for an offensive foul with :21 to go.
Earlier in the quarter, the Bullets had a basket negated when Charles Jones was called for an offensive foul. On another play, King had a potential three-point play taken away when officials Mike Mathis and Ken Mauer ruled he was fouled before he took his falling-down, circus shot.
But, overall, Rivers and fellow all-star Dominique Wilkins were just too much for the Bullets to handle, although they made a valiant run at it, taking an 89-79 lead with 7 1/2 minutes left. Wilkins scored 45 points and Rivers had 24 with 15 assists.
In the final seven minutes, the duo combined for all 24 Hawks points.
Now 18-27 on the year, the Bullets were led by Jeff Malone's 29 points and 22 from John Williams, who led their second-half surge, gave them a 103-99 lead with 1:45 remaining and put in a would-be tying rebound shot just after the buzzer.
Wilkins made a turnaround shot at 1:32 and Rivers tied it at 103with 37 seconds remaining.
The Bullets certainly had their work cut out coming in. Besides having lost seven straight to the Hawks, they entered the Omni without assistant coach Bill Blair, left in Washington with flu. The same illness kept guard Frank Johnson in bed on Friday, when the team flew to Atlanta. Johnson didn't arrive until late this afternoon.
This was on top of the chipped bone that relegated center Moses Malone to TV spectator duty at home. However, the Hawks were not exactly the picture of health either. Guard John Battle, the ailing Hawk out of Washington's McKinley Tech High via Rutgers, was diagnosed today as suffering from hepatitis and likely to miss a minimum of two weeks' action. Center Jon Koncak was out with a twisted left knee.
The visitors acquitted themselves very well in the early going. Jeff Malone scored 12 points to help Washington to a 20-18 lead with three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Early in the period, Atlanta Coach Mike Fratello moved all-star forward Wilkins to the back court but that didn't help much defensively against the Bullets' star.
Another plus for the Bullets was center Manute Bol. Starting in Moses Malone's absence, the 7-foot-6 player had three early rebounds and two blocked shots. Bol's presence helped Washington play a double-teaming defense against the otherwise taller Hawks. Whenever an Atlanta player got the ball in the low post, a Bullets guard would double-team. When the Atlanta player would move the ball to the open man, the remaining Washington players would funnel him to Bol inside.
At the quarter, the Bullets were on top, 28-26.
The Hawks began to use their superior leaping abilty to control offensive rebounds and score 12 of 16 points and take a 43-40 lead.
The play caused Bullets Coach Wes Unseld to spend a timeout. Washington edged into a 43-43 tie, but the Hawks got the last six points to take a 49-43 lead into intermission. Jeff Malone had 15 and Wilkins 18 points in the half.
Neither team was spectacular in the opening half, each shooting 38 percent from the field. After some early success, Washington ended the first two quarters trailing in rebounds, 31-23.
The Bullets' attempt to overcome that deficit got them into trouble early in the second half. Less than three minutes into the third period, Washington had been called for five team fouls, putting the Hawks into the bonus. Conversely, Atlanta had not been whistled for any fouls at that point.
The Hawks moved ahead by 10, 59-49, but the Bullets mounted a comeback. Jeff Malone got two points and King four, but Williams keyed the surge with a pair of power dunks, both in the face of Atlanta players. With 5:55 left in the quarter, the Hawks were ahead, 65-59.
The Bullets kept at it, though, closing to 69-67. A key in this run was point guard Steve Colter, who scored on a swooping, driving layup and a jumper from the free throw line.
Washington kept up the pressure after an Atlanta timeout, and when Jeff Malone hit two free throws with 1:21 left, it gave the Bullets a 73-71 lead. He made a fast-break jumper 20 seconds later for a four-point lead but that was pared to one when seldom used reserve Scott Hastings sank a three-point field goal.
Malone missed on the subsequent possession and Wilkins scored on an offensive rebound, putting the Hawks up by one.