2-39 Mavs put scare in Bullets, but fall

January 28, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

LANDOVER -- As the fourth quarter began in last night's game between the Washington Bullets and the Dallas Mavericks, the Stevie Wonder tune "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" filled the USAir Arena. It's kind of what one would expect the game to be against the NBA's worst team.

But remember, these are the Bullets, and instead of having the game in the bag, Washington found itself barely escaping with a 98-95 win.

It may be a costly win for the Bullets, who lost leading scorer Don MacLean in the third quarter with an injured hip. MacLean, who said he didn't know how he got hurt, is unsure whether he'll be ready for Saturday's game against Orlando.

There was a paid crowd of 13,117, but only 4,129 braved the ice and sleet to watch the last-place teams representing the Atlantic and Midwest divisions. A close game, yes. A pretty win, well, let's just call it a win. Washington (14-26) broke a two-game losing streak while Dallas (2-39) extended its to 16 games.

"Don't ask me about this game," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said, shaking his head.

In this day and age, where just about every game is televised, thank goodness someone had sense enough not to air this one. Yes, Washington shot 55.2 percent, but wound up turning the ball over 26 times. The Bullets' 58 shot attempts were their fewest since moving to Landover 20 years ago.

And the Mavericks? They attempted 27 more shots than Washington, but made just four more. Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn led Dallas with 21 and 19 points, respectively, but the two combined to shoot just 34.8 percent.

Washington, which had a 12-point lead in the first half, fell behind by four in the third quarter. Sweating out a game against a team that has just two victories was more than what the Bullets wanted.

"We just let them stay in the game," said Tom Gugliotta, who led the way with 23 points and 10 rebounds. "We had a lot more to lose than they did."

Like pride and becoming the only team other than the Minnesota Timberwolves to lose to the Mavericks this season. Fortunately for the Bullets, it was Gugliotta who stepped up big at the end.

The Bullets led 96-93 after two free throws by Calbert Cheaney (18 points) with 9.8 seconds left. Dallas had a chance to tie, but Gugliotta stole an inbounds pass intended for Mashburn and drove the length of the court for a dunk that put the Bullets up 98-93 and sealed the game. Fat Lever's layup for Dallas in the final seconds closed the scoring.

"The pass wasn't high enough and I was able to get a piece," Gugliotta said. "It was almost like a lose-lose situation. You feel a little more pressure at the end of the game when you know you should be beating them."

Unseld said he wasn't feeling any more pressure than if he were coaching against any other team.

"I told my boss that these guys can beat us," Unseld said. "I have as much concern for Dallas as I do for Orlando. I don't have the luxury of a Pat Riley."

This is all you need to know about the Mavericks: with five-tenths of a second left in the first half Mashburn inbounded the ball from the sideline. Instead of throwing a lob toward the basket, Mashburn passed the ball back to Popeye Jones who -- instead of shooting -- passed back to Jackson.

No wonder these guys have won just two games.

"I hope when we get more experienced as a team, we'll start to win these types of games," Dallas coach Quinn Buckner said. "I can always draw positives from a game, but I want to win period."

The Mavericks faced a tough battle from the outset, playing without center Sean Rooks, who broke his right foot in Wednesday's loss against Philadelphia. It's hard enough to win with Rooks, let alone with Doug Smith, Greg Dreiling and Donald Hodge roaming the middle.

But when the Bullets ran off 10 points to take a 25-12 lead, the Mavericks responded with the last seven points of the first quarter to close to within 25-19.

Even after a 14-4 run in the second quarter, the Bullets only led 52-45 going into the intermission and 71-70 after three quarters.

At the end, Washington was fortunate to escape with a win.

"The game was going well for us at one point," said Michael Adams, whose three-pointer had given the Bullets their biggest lead at 43-31. "Thank goodness we made a few plays down the stretch."

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