The Washington Bullets need a rest. And they will get their all-star break off on a good note, courtesy of Bernard King early and Ledell Eackles late, who teamed up last night to lead a 124-117 victory over the New Jersey Nets before 6,926 at Capital Centre.
King terrorized the Nets with 47 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in his ninth game above 40 points this season. Eackles scored all of his 13 points in the second half, 10 in the fourth quarter as Washington (21-27) broke a three-game losing streak and held off the improving Nets (14-34).
Harvey Grant added 26 points and 12 rebounds as the Bullets beat New Jersey here for the 12th straight time. And rookie A. J. English looked perfectly at home at point guard with 13 points and a career-high 11 assists.
"I had a really bad game last night," said King, who scored 12 points in Wednesday's loss to the 76ers, but yesterday afternoon was named to start in Sunday's All-Star Game, replacing injured Larry Bird. "This was our last game going into the break and certainly my last game before I go down to Charlotte. I didn't want to go down there on the heels of my performance in Philadelphia. And more important, we needed a win."
New Jersey Coach Bill Fitch came away impressed.
"He made it look like he was the only one out there," said Fitch. "When he gets it going like that, he's a phenomenal player. The great ones, once they get a feel for it, it's a lot of fun to watch."
Washington shot 62 percent from the field in taking a 23-8 lead. But New Jersey, led by Reggie Theus (30 points) and newly acquired Drazen Petrovic (season-high 27 points), shot itself back into the game and into the lead by the third quarter with a 27-8 run.
The Nets are finally going in the right direction. The acquisition of Petrovic and Terry Mills in the trade that sent Greg Anderson to Denver and Walter Davis to Portland gives them depth in reserve. Their presence last night offset the absence of point guard Mookie Blaylock, who had a death in his family.
"That Petrovic, he came off the bench and did a great job," Grant said. "And Reggie was scoring at will. You can't let them get started because they're hard to stop."
"We couldn't guard anyone for a while," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "Their guards got going and we couldn't stop them."
New Jersey led 80-72 midway through the third period before the Bullets scored 12 straight, with a three-point play from Charles Jones (5 points, 7 rebounds, 5 blocks) providing a four-point lead. Eight consecutive points gave the Bullets a 92-86 lead entering the fourth quarter.
"I thought the guy that really won it for us was Charles Jones," Unseld said. "His minutes down the stretch -- there were a lot of things he did that aren't going to show up on the stat sheets."
The Nets went to rookie Derrick Coleman (24 points, nine rebounds) early in the fourth, and he kept them close at 98-93. A 7-2 run tied it at 100 when Mills (12 points) banked in a jumper with seven minutes left.
But King made two big plays. He drew a foul on Chris Dudley and made one of two from the line. At the other end, he stole the ball from Theus out front and went in for a dunk. Later, he hit a shot to keep the Bullets up by three with less than five minutes remaining.
After Pervis Ellison (eight points) put in a Clinton Smith miss, Eackles went to work.
He broke out for a breakaway dunk to give the Bullets a 110-103 lead with 3:13 left. Theus hit a three-point shot, but Eackles followed a King miss for a big basket with two minutes to go that kept the Bullets up 114-106. After New Jersey's Chris Morris made one of two free throws, Eackles rolled to the basket for a dunk off a pass from King.
"I was looking for my drive first," said Eackles, who has struggled the last couple of weeks. "It got a little rough for us in the second half, so we just started piece by piece running them and getting easy buckets and we pulled away a little bit."
So the Bullets enter the all-star break in third place in the Atlantic Division, somewhere they didn't expect to be when they came out of an 0-7 preseason.
With the return of forward John Williams and guard Darrell Walker to look toward for the second half of the season, the Bullets should have a very pleasant break.