It was nearing the end of an awful evening for Washington Bullets center Kevin Duckworth, and, as a pass from Rex Chapman rolled off his fingertips for a turnover that led to the Miami Heat taking a one-point lead with 7.2 seconds left, the 7-footer had one thought on his mind.
"I said, 'No, this game can't end like this,' " Duckworth said. "I knew I could never get out of this arena with the ball going off of my fingertips like that."
Duckworth got one more chance, and his short hook with 5.1 seconds left -- and the ensuing free throw after he was fouled by Miami center Rony Seikaly -- gave the Bullets a 104-102 victory before a crowd of 12,756 at the Baltimore Arena.
Miami guard Steve Smith had one last shot to win it for the Heat, but his three-point shot was off the mark just before the buzzer. It was fitting that Duckworth hauled in the final rebound.
Up to those final seconds, Duckworth had five fouls, six turnovers, six points and three rebounds. Many of the fans had booed his effort, but, in the end, the crowd gave Duckworth a standing ovation.
"It was a great feeling," Duckworth said. "After the way I played, I tell you, it was great to win a game like that."
The win improved the Bullets to 4-4, going into a tough week with games against Charlotte, Cleveland, Atlanta and Orlando. It's the kind of win the Bullets need this season, over a team (Miami dropped to 3-4) that is considered to be on Washington's competitive level.
"Once you get a couple of wins like that, you just feel like you can keep doing it," said Washington guard Rex Chapman, who scored 19 points. "We wanted to hover around .500, so we needed this win."
In the third quarter it looked as though it would be an easy win for the Bullets, who built a 71-61 lead after two free throws by Tom Gugliotta (25 points, 10 rebounds) with 6:34 left in the third quarter. After Mitchell Butler made a free throw with two minutes left in the quarter to give Washington a 77-70 lead, the Bullets still appeared comfortable.
But Miami scored the last nine points of the third quarter and, with two free throws by Harold Miner with 6.9 seconds left (he had 10 of his team-high 24 in the third period), the Heat had a 79-77 lead going into the last 12 minutes.
Washington started the final period with a 13-6 run, and a layup by Calbert Cheaney gave the Bullets a 90-85 lead with 7:54 left. Miami got a boost from back-up center Matt Geiger, who scored all six of his points during a 12-6 run that gave the Heat a 97-96 lead. The lead changed hands six times in the last 2:25, with Duckworth's basket capping the victory.
"Duck just stepped up," Bullets guard Michael Adams said. "If someone else had got the call, they would have done the same."
The Bullets were sparked by their 45-27 edge on the boards, but were outshot, 45.8 percent to 44.9 percent. Seikaly, who had a career-high 34 rebounds in a game against the Bullets last season, finished with just three in 33 minutes last night.
"The obvious difference was the boards," Miami coach Kevin Loughery said. "Rony [Seikaly] didn't have a good night."
Adams scored eight of Washington's first 10 points -- including a four-point play after being fouled making a three-pointer -- and helped the Bullets to a 10-10 tie. It was the 10th four-point play of Adams' career, extending his NBA record.
But a John Salley tip started a 6-2 run that, after a short jumper by Harold Miner, gave the Heat its biggest first-half lead, 16-12, with 5:57 left in the first quarter.
A three-pointer by Chapman, coming off Friday's 37-point game at Charlotte, started a 9-0 Washington run that gave the Bullets a 21-16 lead after two free throws by Duckworth with 3:21 left in the quarter.
Washington had its biggest lead of the first quarter after a free throw by Gheorghe Muresan made it 26-20 and, behind Adams' 12 first-quarter points, took a 29-24 lead into the second quarter.
The Bullets had their biggest lead of the half after Muresan scored on a hook shot (his first NBA field goal) on the team's first possession of the second half that made it 31-24. With both teams playing their benches heavily, the Heat began chipping away and took the lead, 41-40, on Wille Burton's dunk with 6:01 left in the half.
Both teams went back and forth for the rest of the half, and after two free throws by Smith, the Heat led 47-44 with 3:40 left.
But the Bullets finished the half with a 15-6 run, scoring the last eight points of the half. When Kenny Walker caught a three-quarters-court pass and made a short jump shot at the buzzer, the Bullets took a 59-53 halftime lead.
NOTE: Don MacLean scratched his left eye in the third quarter and did not return. He played 20 minutes and had seven points.