LANDOVER -- Two important future story lines developed for the Washington Bullets last night, as National Basketball Association scoring leader Bernard King signed a contract extension and veteran guard Ledell Eackles played for the first time this season.
Both King (39 points) and Eackles (13 in 15 minutes) were big contributors last night, but it was unsung free-agent guard Haywoode Workman who provided the perfect ending for the second straight game, hitting two clutch free throws with 7.5 seconds left to clinch a 115-113 victory over the Golden State Warriors.
"Haywoode's composure saved us again," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld, who has admired Workman's grit since the Oral Roberts product first appeared at a summer tryout camp in bidding to rejoin the National Basketball Association after playing most of last season in the Continental Basketball Association.
Workman, who scored a career-high 15 points, had also made the winning basket Saturday night in a 107-105 squeaker over the Indiana Pacers. But this game had an even more dramatic ending for the crowd of 6,966.
The Warriors (8-6), who dropped their third straight, seemed in perfect position to win this game after Workman's last free throw. They had already converted 7-of-11 three-point shots, including several by guard Mitch Richmond (28 points) under extreme pressure from Darrell Walker.
Bullets coach Wes Unseld had watched an earlier game with Philadelphia slip away because of a three-point shot by Ron Anderson, and almost a repeat performance by Indiana's George McCloud last week. But this time his players finally
heeded his orders to foul anyone behind the three-point line.
After their final timeout, the Warriors worked the ball to forward Tom Tolbert, who, with 16 seconds left, had banked home a three-point shot to reduce the Bullets' four-point lead to 113-112.
But before Tolbert could square up to the basket this time, he was fouled hard by Charles Jones with 1.5 seconds remaining. Tolbert made the first free throw, but deliberately arced the second high off the back rim.
Rookie forward Tyrone Hill soared for the rebound, but was unable to control it as the final buzzer sounded, assuring the (4-8) Bullets of consecutive victories for the first time this season.
But this one had to be particularly encouraging for Unseld, who, save for rehabilitating power forward John Williams, is beginning to get all his game pieces together.
Eackles, who missed all of training camp in a contract dispute and needed two more weeks to get into playing shape, was pushed hard by Unseld in his first appearance of the season.
Ear-marked to replace traded Jeff Malone as the starting shooting guard, Eackles came off the bench to contribute 13 points, but showed his lack of stamina on defense and also missed 5 of 8 free throws.
"Ledell did all right considering his condition," said Unseld. "I played him that long for a reason. I'm not worrying about one particular game. I'm trying to stretch him out for the long haul."
King, of course, remains the cornerstone of the Bullets offense, tTC and left Warrior coach Don Nelson and his players discussing his point effort in terms of awe.
"Bernard is incredible," said Warrior leader Chris Mullin, who grew up in New York watching King perform similar wonders for the Knicks in the early 80s.
"His shots are intimidating. He scores even when he doesn't have a shot. He carries the team. Only when he is out of the game can your team make a run."
But King, who said two hours before the game that he hopes to end his pro career in Washington, willingly shared the credit.
"This was our best effort of the season because we had everyone contributing across the board," said the small forward, who turns 34 Tuesday. "Workman is giving us a big lift at guard, freeing Darrell [Walker] to rebound, Harvey Grant (22 points) is coming into his own, and now we have Ledell back to lighten the offensive load. This was the way it was supposed to be."
But for all the Bullets' heroes, this one might have slipped away if Warrior floor leader Tim Hardaway (26 points) had not fouled out with eight minutes remaining.
Hardaway had ignited the Warrior rally that overcame a 16-point deficit in the second half. Without his floor leadership, the visitors committed two costly turnovers -- both by Richmond -- in the final minute.
Just enough time for Workman to bring the curtain down again.