SAN ANTONIO, FEB. 19 -- Holding the San Antonio Spurs to three points in the final 2:15 of play, the Washington Bullets broke a four-game losing streak and a six-game road skid with a 106-102 win tonight at Hemisfair Arena.
Now 19-29 on the season, the Bullets got 22 points from Bernard King, 20 from Jeff Malone and Terry Catledge and 17 from Moses Malone in the game, during which neither team led by more than seven points. Frank Brickowski led San Antonio (19-28) with 26 points.
While not exactly pulling a new lineup from a hat, Washington Coach Wes Unseld made a number of noticeable changes. The team's second unit, one of its few pluses of late, saw limited action as a group. Instead, Unseld mixed and matched his players according to what was needed.
No starter played fewer than 30 minutes, and Moses Malone, who had complained about his limited playing time of late, was on the floor for 36 minutes. That was almost double the 19 minutes of action he saw in Wednesday night's 123-108 loss at Dallas.
"The starters played well -- all of them -- that was the key," said Unseld. "I don't expect everyone to have a great game every night, that's just too hard. And by havng a great game, I don't mean just scoring points. I'm talking about helping each other out on defense and passing the ball around on offense -- things like that."
Moses Malone said that he culled no personal satisfaction or sense of triumph from his part in the win (he led Washington with 13 rebounds, one more than Catledge).
"We got the win and that's the main concern," he said. "Everyone played hard and that's what we've got to do. If we do that, we'll win a lot of games. We played aggressive defense and did the right things to win. We've been playing close games, we might as well win some."
Four of the Bullets' last seven losses have been decided by a total of 12 points and, despite their defensive handiwork, it seemed that tonight's game would end up as another maddening defeat. Washington took the lead for good on a short, leaning jumper by Frank Johnson with 4:43 to play, the shot giving the visitors a 96-94 lead.
But the Bullets couldn't finish off the Spurs. After turning the basketball over 13 times in the first half, the Bullets made only four miscues in the next 17 minutes. During the decisive final five minutes, though, they lost the ball five times.
The score was 100-99, Washington, with two minutes left when guard Steve Colter was called for charging. On the subsequent possession, Moses Malone stole a pass intended for Brickowski. With 1:38 remaining, John Williams had a jumper rim out, the miss leading to a foul called against King after an offensive rebound by the Spurs' Ed Nealy.
The seldom-used reserve went to the line with a chance to put his team in front, but he missed both shots. The second caromed away from the basket and the forward recovered and gave the ball to guard Alvin Robertson. The all-star found Johnny Dawkins underneath the hoop, but the layup attempt by the former Duke and Mackin High star was blocked by Williams.
With 1:06 left, Moses Malone hit a pair of free throws to make the score 102-99, but Washington didn't score again until the center hit two more from the line with 11 seconds left. In the interim, the Bullets had to survive another turnover as well as a jump ball just outside their basket and a pair of missed three-point attempts by Robertson and Dawkins.
"We had a chance to win this ballgame, but too many turnovers and missed free throws cost us," said Spurs Coach Bob Weiss.
The team did make one last gasp attempt at victory. Mike Mitchell hit a three-point shot with six seconds left, making it 104-102. Two seconds later, Jeff Malone hit a pair from the line to ice the win.
"We played good defense and hit our free throws down the stretch," said Jeff Malone. ". . . Everyone did a much, much better job."