HOUSTON -- These are trying times for Washington Bullets coach Wes Unseld. Eight consecutive defeats without his leading scorer and top draft pick are hard to swallow. But Unseld had reason to smile after a 100-97 loss to the Houston Rockets last night at The Summit.
For the first time since the second game of the season, Unseld had the same 12-man roster at his disposal that he left training camp with. And the Bullets gave the multi-talented Rockets all they could handle.
"I was satisfied with our effort tonight," Unseld said. "We had a scoring drought at the beginning of the fourth quarter that killed us."
Pervis Ellison outplayed Houston's All-Star center, Hakeem Olajuwon, en route to a game-high 27 points and 15 rebounds. And it was Ellison's three-point play with 49 seconds left that pulled the Bullets within 95-94.
Michael Adams stole the ball from Matt Bullard at the 43-second mark and was fouled with a chance to give the Bullets the lead with two shots from the foul line. Adams, who finished with 22 points and 14 assists,made one of the two to tie the score at 95.
However, Otis Thorpe took a nifty feed from Kenny Smith and scored on a layup with 28 seconds left to lead the Rockets to victory before a vocal crowd of 13,013.
"I can almost attribute this win to the better fan support," said Rockets coach Don Chaney. "We are the home team, and our players have to feel the fans are behind them."
Houston converted three of four free throws by Smith and Olajuwon down the stretch to hold off the Bullets. A. J. English's potential game-tying three-point attempt at the buzzer bounced off the front of the rim.
"We got a good shot off at the end," said Unseld. "Hopefully, we can just stay healthy and get a rotation going. Then I can make some decisions."
Vernon Maxwell led the Rockets with 21 points, but it was a great defensive stand after Thorpe's layup that was a key to the victory.
With 28 seconds left to tie or take the lead, Washington was overwhelmed by a swarming defense that wouldn't allow Adams to get off a shot and eventually forced Tom Hammonds to lose the ball out of bounds with 6.6 seconds to play.
"Defense is played with adrenalin and aggression," Chaney said. "When the fans are involved, we do that."
Olajuwon scored 15 points and added 11 rebounds, but Chaney said he was concerned about his 7-footer because he got tired after short intervals during the game.
"I did feel a little more tired than usual, but I'm just glad we won this game," Olajuwon said. "We know we have the talent to win but we have a lot of work to do."
Sleepy Floyd and Tree Rollins were instrumental in the Rockets' comeback to begin the fourth quarter. Floyd's off-balance 21-footer brought Houston within 79-78 and excited the crowd. Rollins had 10 rebounds in 19 minutes subbing for Olajuwon.
Moments later, just before the shot clock expired, Floyd hit a running three-pointer to tie the score at 81 with 8:21 left.
Houston scored six consecutive points to break an 85-85 tie and lead 91-85 with 3:34 left. Thorpe capped the mini-run when he made one of two free-throw attempts.
"I think the losing streak played on our minds from the outset," Thorpe said. "We expected to put them away from the start and at the end of the third quarter, they were right there with us."