HOUSTON -- Otis Thorpe scored on a layup courtesy of a nifty pass from Kenny Smith with 28 seconds left to give Houston the lead for good and the Rockets defeated the Washington Bullets, 100-97, last night at The Summit.
Michael Adams stole the ball from Matt Bullard with 43 seconds left and converted one of two free throws to tie the game at 95. Houston (12-9) broke its four-game home losing streak by converting three of four free throws by Smith and Hakeem Olajuwon down the stretch.
It was the eighth straight loss for Washington (6-17). Pervis Ellison led the Bullets with a game-high 27 points. Adams added 22. Vernon Maxwell led the Rockets with 21 points.
Sleepy Floyd and Tree Rollins were instrumental in the Rockets' comeback to begin the fourth period. Floyd's off-balance 21-footer brought Houston within 79-78 and got the crowd involved. Moments later, Floyd hit a running three-pointer just before the shot clock expired to knot the score at 81 with 8:21 left.
Houston scored six consecutive points to break an 85-85 tie and led 91-85 with 3:34 left. Otis Thorpe capped the mini-run when he made one of two free throws. Tom Hammonds kept the Bullets alive with eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter.
In the final 2 minutes and 19 seconds, Washington coach Wes Unseld went to the pressure defense from which he had gotten great mileage at the end of the first half.
"We got a lot of turnovers from our pressure defense and I was real satisfied with our effort, even though it resulted in another loss," Unseld said. "This is the first time we've had the same 12 players that we left training camp with since the second game of the year."
Beginning the third period two points behind, the Bullets took off on a 23-13 run and led, 77-69, behind the scoring of David Wingate, Adams and Ellison. Adams capped eight consecutive points with a short jumper off the drive to give the Bullets their first eight-point lead at 73-65 in the run.
"We put ourselves in a position to win," said Adams. "That's all you can ask for against a good team like Houston."
A 15-foot jumper by English with less than a minute to play allowed Washington to carry a 79-74 lead into the final 12 minutes. Houston led 11-9 with 5:52 left in the opening period when Maxwell reeled off eight consecutive points with two three-pointers sandwiched around a 20-footer from the top of the circle. Unseld called a timeout with the Rockets leading 19-11, but Olajuwon increased the lead to 21-11 after the break with a 10-foot baseline turnaround jumper.
Ellison helped the Bullets close within 27-23 with 11 first-quarter points and Adams added eight, including four of five from the free-throw line.
Bullets backup center Ralph Sampson, a former Rocket, received a polite round of applause when he checked into the lineup to begin the second period along with Harvey Grant. But it was the 6-9 Grant who took center stage when he opened the period with six consecutive points to give the Bullets a 29-27 lead. After two free throws by Ellison gave Washington a 31-29 lead with 9:41 left in the first half, A. J. English scored his team's next six points to answer eight consecutive points by Bullard.
The 6-10 Bullard was left alone for two baseline three-pointers from the right side and in between scored on a dunk off a nice feed from Olajuwon. Bullard's second three-pointer gave the Rockets a 34-33 lead they wouldn't give up for the rest of the period.