LANDOVER -- You know what kind of a game it was between the lottery-bound Washington Bullets and Miami Heat at the Capital Centre yesterday when the main story was the return of Hoops, the Bullets mascot.
Hoops had been reported missing since being ejected from the Bullets' game with the Portland Trail Blazers on April 4. He returned for yesterday's matinee performance, but the Bullets' offense disappeared for the first half.
It look a tongue-lashing from coach Wes Unseld to revive his team, trailing by two at halftime, and reserve guard Ledell Eackles, in particular, as the Bullets rebounded to defeat the Heat, 101-96, before 9,930.
Washington, which has won two straight, used an 18-5 run in the first 7 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter to gain an 87-77 advantage and was never headed.
Miami, which won the season series, 3-2, managed two field goals in this decisive stretch.
It was almost six minutes between baskets by Willie Burton and Sherman Douglas (26 points). In the meantime, Eackles scored nine points, including several acrobatic layups, to give the Bullets control.
The Heat made one last run in the final minute, trimming a nine-point deficit to 100-96 on center Rony Seikaly's three-point shot with 19 seconds left. But it got no closer.
With starting center Pervis Ellison picking up three fouls in the first three minutes and restricted to 13 minutes overall, and his backup, Greg Foster (12 points) also in foul trouble, Unseld, already handicapped by the absence of scoring leader Bernard King, Charles Jones and Mark Alarie, needed a timely lift from his bench.
He got it from Eackles and Tom Hammonds (15 points, six ZTC rebounds), who joined starting forward Harvey Grant (26 points) in leading the second-half comeback. In the past six games, Hammonds has averaged 9.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.
"We started out all right, but we were lethargic and careless in the second quarter," said Unseld. "I just tried to make sure we woke up for the second half.
"Eackles stank in the first half, but when he decides to wants to do it, he's unbelievable. But don't ask me to explain his inconsistency."
Said Eackles, with a shy smile: "Wes got on me a bit at halftime. I just came out a lot hungrier and started attacking the basket. That's how I have to play all the time."
With Eackles scoring, backcourt mate Darrell Walker could concentrate on defense. Douglas burned the Bullets for 22 points in the first three quarters, but Walker limited the Miami floor leader to a basket and two free throws in the fourth quarter. Douglas was held to two assists in 39 minutes, tying his season low.
"Darrell did a sensational defensive job in the second half," Unseld said. "And we did a better job doubling down low on Seikaly [5-for-13, 16 points] and forcing him to give up the ball."