LANDOVER -- The only thing the Washington Bullets and Dallas Mavericks had on the line last night was who would wind up with the third-worst record in the NBA and the improved lottery chance that goes with it. But they played like it mattered, battling for every missed shot, every bad pass, every loose ball.
Each had a streak on the line. The Bullets, the only NBA team with a better record on the road than at home, had lost five straight at the Capital Centre. And the Mavericks, with the second-longest road losing streak in club history, had lost 15 straight.
Last night, the Bullets pleased the home fans and made the shots that earned a 119-109 victory, which will allow coach Wes Unseld to get a rare good night's sleep.
"It's a win, and I want to get them any way I can," said Unseld, whose team has won two straight. "I'm past being choosy -- and I'm not playing for [a] lottery pick."
The victory improved the Bullets' overall record to 20-40, and dropped Dallas to 17-42.
Before 6,165, the Bullets used their motion offense and shot 58 percent for the game to put five players in double figures -- Ledell Eackles (23), Pervis Ellison (21) Michael Adams (20) A.J. English (18) and David Wingate (15).
And if that, and breaking the home losing string, weren't enough, Bullets center Charles Jones had a season-high five points.
"We all knew coming in that we're both struggling," said Adams. "They know it. We know it. But it was a chance to win a game and we play to win every night. It feels good to win, especially to win at home."
While the Bullets struggled to get Ledell Eackles untracked in the early going, it fell to David Wingate to set the tone for the evening.
"David was exceptional," said Unseld of his shooting guard. "He set the tone for the night and he kept [Rolando] Blackman from hurting us."
Wingate usually starts slowly on offense, but last night he was on the mark early, contributing 11 points in the first half.
It was a fact that kept the Bullets in the game, while Eackles and company found their range.
But it was his defensive effort that may have meant the most. He kept Blackman out of sync. The 6-foot-6 Dallas guard likes to set up off the screen, but Wingate wouldn't let him.
The former Georgetown Hoya and Dunbar High School star continued to work through Dallas' best screens and force Blackman, who was eight of 17 from the field, to create off his own dribble.
"Basically, I didn't show him the same move twice," Wingate said. "It threw him off his game. What I did helped, but the key was we played overall good team defense."
Blackman, who finished with 21 points, had only one burst that really had an impact on the game. That came near the end of the third quarter, when he broke through for six points and assisted on another score. Suddenly, Dallas was within 77-72 with less than a minute to play.