Walker lifts Bullets at both ends Late 20-footer tops Magic, 121-119

January 22, 1991|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Correspondent

LANDOVER -- It was only fitting that Darrell Walker ended the game yesterday sprawled among the front-row spectators after contesting a three-point, game-winning attempt by Orlando Magic rookie forward Dennis Scott.

Walker had done nearly everything else to help the Washington Bullets edge the Magic, 121-119, before 9,210 and extend their home winning streak to five.

The aggressive veteran guard capped his third triple-double of the season by hitting a high, arcing 20-foot jump shot over Scott Skiles with 1.4 seconds left on the clock to break a 119-119 tie.

Walker, who finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists, wound up with the ball with time running out. "I had to shoot it, and hope that if I missed, someone would get an offensive rebound," he said.

Asked about the Bullets' final offensive play, coach Wes Unseld said: "Going to Darrell was an option, but he wasn't our first, second or third. That was Ledell Eackles, Bernard King and Harvey Grant. But Darrell is a tough guy, and he's going to hang in there no matter what."

Said Walker, his feet in a bucket of ice water: "They had a chance to win, but we just gutted it out. At times, it felt like we were running in quicksand, but we managed to finish on top."

After Walker's basket, both teams called timeouts. The Bullets went into their blitz defense in which every screen by the offense creates a quick switch by the defenders.

Everyone expected Scott, who had scored 30 points, including four of seven on three-pointers, to take the final shot.

"I told [guard] Ledell Eackles not to let Scott catch the ball," said Unseld, "but he got turned around when Scott faked to go back-door and came top-side."

This brief deception allowed Scott just enough time to catch the ball and unleash a 30-footer from near the right sideline with Walker leaping to distract him. The shot seemed on target, but glanced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.

"That was the first time all season I had a chance to make the game-winner. I was wide open. I should have stuck it," said Scott, the former Georgia Tech All-America who recently has begun to justify being the fourth player selected in the 1990 National Basketball Association draft.

The Bullets, who had played four games in five nights and caught an early-morning flight from Seattle on Sunday, repeatedly blew substantial leads.

With scoring leader Bernard King (22 points on 6-for-18 shooting) struggling for the third straight game, Harvey Grant (31 points and a career-high eight assists) and Eackles (25 points) picked up the slack, building an 82-70 advantage in the third quarter.

But the Bullets defense had no answers for the penetrating of point guard Scott Skiles (27 points, 12 assists), the inside muscle of Terry Catledge (24 points, 13 rebounds) and the long-range accuracy of Scott.

Orlando (10-30), which has won two of its 22 road games, led for the last time when Catledge converted two free throws for a 113-111 lead with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left. The game was tied four times in the closing minutes before Walker's jump shot won it for the Bullets (17-21), who remained in a third-place tie with the New York Knicks.

"I think some of my guys were real tired today," said Unseld, "especially King and [center] Charles Jones. I've talked to Bernard, and he's tried to hard to accomplish what he has this season. But our bodies just weren't alive out there."

The Bullets will have 24 hours to recuperate before entertaining the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night.

Bullets forward John Williams will be checked by team orthopedist Steve Haas today to determine whether he is ready to be reactivated.

Williams, who has been rehabilitating his right knee since Dec. 4, 1989, had hoped to rejoin the team for the game against the Hawks. But the 6-foot-9 forward suffered a minor setback last week when he joined the Bullets on their final western swing. He popped his knee while running on the beach, but it was quickly popped back into place.

"I just have a little tendinitis," said Williams. "I'm not used to running in the sand."

Williams has not had an opportunity to join the team in full-scale scrimmages between games. Until that happens, Unseld will not have a good chance to assess his playing condition.

Haas is primarily interested in seeing if Williams is down to the prescribed weight of 265 and how his knee has progressed since his supervised rehabilitation program began in early November.

"The Jan. 23 date for returning was John's, not ours," said general manager John Nash. "We have to wait to hear from the doctor how the knee shows up in a Cybex test. But right now, I believe that John is being too optimistic."

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