LANDOVER -- They say in love and sports, you have to be good . . . and lucky. The Minnesota Timberwolves are neither.
These facts were underlined at the Capital Centre last night before 8,715, when the Timberwolves (11-51), despite shooting 56 percent from the field, lost to the Washington Bullets, 118-115, when Scott Brooks' last-second three-point try spun out of the basket.
It dropped the Timberwolves' road record to 4-27, but none was more frustrating than this latest defeat, in which Minnesota received superlative efforts by Pooh Richardson (22 points, 17 assists), Thurl Bailey (20 points) and Doug West (18 points).
"It was unreal," said Timberwolves shooting guard Tony Campbell.
Especially the way the Bullets (22-42) managed to win it in the closing minute.
The unlikely hero for the Bullets was Charles Jones, a defensive specialist who came into the game averaging 0.8 of a point.
With 34 seconds remaining and the score tied at 115, Jones rebounded a missed shot by Campbell and drew an offensive foul by Timberwolves forward Tod Murphy.
Jones made the first free throw to give the Bullets their first lead since the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. He missed the second, but Ledell Eackles grabbed the offensive rebound only to have Michael Adams lose the ball out of bounds.
With 19 seconds left, the Timberwolves set up a play for the winning shot. Campbell posted up Eackles and Richardson threw a lob pass. But Jones anticipated the play, and swatted the shot away. It was one of those borderline plays that might have been called goaltending.
"No, it was a perfect block," said Jones, who had four rejections to go with his season-high six points. "My man [Bailey] was over in the corner. I gambled by leaving him and it worked."
The Timberwolves then fouled Adams, who made the two insurance free throws with 11 seconds remaining. There was still plenty of time for Minnesota to attempt a tying three-pointer.
Richardson tried first, and his shot bounced high off the rim. Bailey collared the rebound and fired it cross-court to three-point specialist Brooks. His shot appeared on line but spun out, and the Bullets had an improbable victory.
Perhaps the most improbable statistic was the Bullets' 53-28 rebounding advantage. Only 17 times this season has Washington out-rebounded its opponent, a sore point coach Wes Unseld hopes to correct in the 1992 NBA lottery.