HARTFORD, Conn. -- With two defenders hanging on him like a pair of hoop earrings, Rex Chapman heaved up a three-point shot -- and it dropped.
Even last-place teams like the Washington Bullets have moments like that once in awhile. Chapman was at the foul line with 11 seconds left with a chance to pad the Bullets' one-point lead over the playoff-bound Boston Celtics.
Thud, thud. Two misses.
Then Dee Brown hit a jump shot with 2.7 seconds remaining to give Boston a 114-113 victory at the Hartford Civic Center. Last-place teams like the Bullets have moments like that all the time.
"That was pitiful to miss two shots like that," said Chapman, who scored 16 points in the final 8:36. "We gave it to them. Our present to them for their playoff run, I guess."
The Bullets (19-48) trailed most of the game, but cut double-figure deficits to two or three points in the second, third and fourth quarters.
They were down 98-88 with 8:36 remaining when they began their final surge. Chapman hit two three-pointers, then Brent Price hit one with 2:27 left to give the Bullets a 106-104 edge -- their first lead since the opening minutes. Chapman's last points, the three-point shot with Reggie Lewis and Xavier McDaniel guarding him, made it 112-108 with 34.4 seconds to go.
"I had no doubt about it [after Chapman's shot]," coach Wes Unseld said. "But for the second time in three games, it came down to free throws and we didn't make them."
Price missed one of two with 17 seconds left, and Chapman missed the two crushers with 11.2 remaining. Washington hit 15 of 26 from the line for the game.
The crowds in Hartford, the Celtics' home away from home for three games a year, tend to view these games quietly. But the 15,239 came alive with the missed free throws.
"We haven't had many big free throws this season," Chapman said. "I haven't had many since college."
Unseld was also seething about the clock operation. Price took an inbounds pass with 18 seconds left and put the ball on the floor four times before being fouled -- but only one second elapsed.
"Yes, I was upset with the clock," Unseld said. "They weren't starting and stopping it right. You don't anticipate the whistle."
After Chapman's misses, the Celtics brought it up the floor and Sherman Douglas passed to Brown, just inside the three-point line on the right corner, for the winning shot.
"Sherman made a great pass," Brown said. "He threw it at the last possible second, so I'd be open. I knew there was time on the clock, so I didn't rush it."
After Brown's shot, Larry Stewart made a long inbounds pass to Chapman, who had an open three-pointer, but missed.
Lewis scored 36 for the Celtics (40-28), who moved a half-game ahead of New Jersey for second place in the Atlantic Division and fourth in the Eastern Conference -- the final spot for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The mood in the Celtics' locker room, however, was just as somber as Washington's.
"How many times were we up 10 and then let them back in it?" coach Chris Ford said. "Don't you think I have reason to be angry? We were very lucky today."
McDaniel had 22 points and 14 rebounds, Douglas 16 points and 15 assists, Kevin Gamble 11 points and Kevin McHale 10 for the Celtics.
"I don't think we had a letdown," Brown said. "I mean, we played badly in spurts. But Unseld is going to have all those guys playing hard 48 minutes."
Harvey Grant led the Bullets with 28 points. Chapman had 20, Michael Adams 19 with 11 assists.
"It was our game to lose," Adams said. "And that's just what we did."
NOTES: Adams was back in his hometown for the second time in his career. Adams came here with the Bullets last season (Nov. 25, 1991), but dislocated a finger in the early minutes and sat out the Bullets' 121-108 loss. "It was fun, more fun than last time with my finger," Adams said. "Even though we lost the game again." Adams' alma mater, Hartford Public High, finished 27-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state this past season. Adams, who graduated in 1980, attended a rally honoring the team Saturday, and promised to buy championship jackets. . . . Celtics center Robert Parish left the game after six minutes when he stepped on Charles Jones' foot and sprained his left ankle.