The Washington Bullets had a convenient alibi for blowing a 14-point halftime lead and losing to the Philadelphia 76ers, 105-101, at the Baltimore Arena on Saturday night.
As has become the norm whenever the Bullets play here, the Arena scoreboard and timing devices malfunctioned at least a ++ half-dozen times, interrupting the flow of the game, which took 2 hours, 30 minutes to complete.
"I think all the interruptions threw both teams out of sync and ruined our timing," said Bullets center Pervis Ellison, who scored 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
But the clock was only a minor distraction compared with the overpowering offense of Charles Barkley and the trapping defense by the 76ers that disconcerted the Bullets in the fourth quarter.
After being innocently involved in a barroom brawl in Chicago last week involving teammate Jayson Williams, Barkley said, "If I go to a bar tonight, and someone gets killed, I'm going to be charged with conspiracy to commit murder."
No formal charges were made Saturday, but the 250-pound forward left the Bullets battered and bewildered after scoring 15 of his game-high 30 points in the final period, including the game-winner on a spinning jump shot with five seconds left.
Defensively, the intimidating presence of Manute Bol, the 7-foot-7 reserve center, frustrated the Bullets, who failed to score a field goal in the first seven minutes of the final quarter, when the 76ers transformed an 85-76 deficit into a 92-89 advantage.
In a sense, it was a rerun of the teams' first encounter, Nov. 5 at the Capital Centre, when the 76ers rallied to win, 107-106, behind Barkley's 33 points and 19 rebounds.
After being held to 13 points in a 98-95 loss in Boston on Friday night, Barkley apologized to his teammates for his subpar performance.
"Great players always bounce back when they don't have a so-called great game," said 76ers reserve guard Greg Grant. "You expected Charles to deliver, and he did."
Bullets coach Wes Unseld had the same suspicions, constantly reminding his players that if they allowed the game to be close, Barkley would prove their undoing.
"We don't have anyone strong enough to stop him when he makes up his mind to score," Unseld said .