LANDOVER -- The injury-depleted Washington Bullets turned in their guttiest performance of the season last night, defeating the San Antonio Spurs, 94-84, before a crowd of 16,430 that gave them a standing ovation as they left the Capital Centre floor.
An hour before the game, the Bullets learned that center Pervis Ellison, their leading rebounder and second-best scorer, was involved in an auto accident. The injuries were minor and Ellison was expected to be released from Southeast Washington Hospital later in the evening.
But the rest of the Bullets picked up the slack. Harvey Grant scored 24 points, and rookie forward Larry Stewart of Coppin State contributed 23 points and 11 rebounds. Michael Adams added 17 points and eight assists as Washington (11-18) won for the fifth time in the past six games. It was also the Bullets' first victory in five Capital Centre appearances this month.
David Robinson led the Spurs (16-13) with 25 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
The last time the teams met, the Spurs had Willie Anderson playing point guard and the Bullets used effective traps to force San Antonio into 20 turnovers in a 96-93 victory.
Such inconsistent floor leadership convinced coach Larry Brown that he needed Rod Strickland, who had missed the first 24 games in a contract dispute. Brown helped pressure management into signing Strickland to a $1.3 million deal for the remainder of the season.
With Ellison missing, Charles Jones started at center and got two quick offensive rebounds to help give Washington a 7-4 lead.
Excellent ball movement boosted the margin to 13-8, with Robinson accounting for six of the Spurs' points. Robinson also blocked two close-in shots by Stewart before Stewart eluded him on a fast-break layup for a 21-14 spread.
The first quarter ended with Washington leading, 27-20.
Greg Foster replaced Jones at the start of the second quarter and got in a jawing match with Spurs forward Antoine Carr. Both were charged with technicals, but no foul shots were taken.
With both coaches going to their reserves, the scoring slowed dramatically. The Bullets made one of their first 10 shots in the period as San Antonio closed to 32-29. A 6-2 run put the Spurs ahead, 35-34, with Robinson rejecting another Stewart layup attempt.
The Bullets regrouped behind A.J. English's two baskets to reclaim the lead, 40-37. But the Spurs answered with seven straight points before Adams hit a runner. San Antonio held a 46-44 edge at halftime.
Washington was held to 39 percent shooting from the field, with San Antonio only slightly better at 43 percent. Grant led the Bullets with 14 points and Robinson scored 12 for the Spurs. Robinson also had six rebounds and five blocks in the first half.
Adams and Grant pushed the Bullets back on top, 49-48, in the opening minute of the second half. Washington also tightened its defense and blocked several Spurs shots, leading to fast-break opportunities. Stewart scored six points to pad the margin to 69-62. After three quarters, the Bullets led, 71-63.
San Antonio called a quick timeout after English and Stewart began the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets for a 12-point spread.
Ledell Eackles then surprised Robinson by leaping to reject the 7- foot-1 center's short jumper. Robinson got the rebound, was fouled, but missed both free throws.
Both teams struggled to score in the next two minutes. With seven minutes left, the Bullets led, 80-71, and Adams replaced Andre Turner.
The Bullets continued to play tenacious defense, forcing the Spurs to take low-percentage shots. They used the free-throw line and bonus situation to hold an 86-74 advantage with 4 minutes and 20 seconds remaining.
Adams missed successive three-point attempts, and Robinson's jumper brought the Spurs to within eight points with three minutes left.