EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Pervis Ellison ended 1991 with a crash and started the new year with a bang.
Involved in an auto accident en route to the Capital Centre on Monday night that kept him out of the game with the San Antonio Spurs, the Bullets center bounced back last night with a 31-point, 15-rebound performance to lead Washington to a 112-108 victory over the New Jersey Nets at the Meadowlands.
The Bullets (12-18), who have won six of their past seven games, barely hung on, as the Nets cut an eight-point deficit to 107-106 with 59 seconds left.
Washington's A.J. English converted one of two free throws with 32 seconds remaining, giving the Nets a chance to tie. Mookie Blaylock missed a short jumper, and the Bullets' Harvey Grant then made a crucial block of Sam Bowie's follow-up attempt.
English hit two free throws for a four-point spread with 13 seconds left.
The Nets (11-19), whose four-game winning streak ended, were led by Bowie's 30 points and nine rebounds.
One of the principal reasons for the Nets' recent surge has been the play of shooting guard Drazen Petrovic, who was acquired from Portland a year ago for a No. 1 draft pick.
Petrovic leads the Nets in scoring (20.7) and is shooting 47 percent from three-point range.
"Drazen is like a lot of European-born players," said coach Bill Fitch. "They require a lot of playing time in the NBA before they really learn how the game is played."
The free-wheeling Petrovic, from Sibenik, Croatia, once scored 112 points in a Croatian League game. Promoted to a starting role this season, his effective outside shooting has opened up the inside for Sam Bowie and Derrick Coleman, but he is still working to improve his defense.
"Night in and night out, you're challenged by the best shooting guards in the game," he said. "I need to accept that challenge and concentrate on playing tough defense, not just scoring points. I think I'm making good progress."
But last night belonged to the Bullets' Ellison, who opened the scoring with a baseline jumper.
Thunderous dunks by Chris Morris and Bowie staked the Nets to an 11-10 lead. The Nets guards did an effective job of getting the ball down low to Bowie and Derrick Coleman to move ahead, 20-16.
Ellison tried to keep Bowie occupied on the offensive end, scoring seven points. A three-point shot by Michael Adams pushed Washington in front, 26-24. Sloppy ball handling marked the last two minutes of the quarter with Petrovic's buzzer-beater producing a 30-30 tie.
Ledell Eackles, who burned his shooting hand on a firecracker over New Year's, came off the Bullets' bench to start the second quarter. Then rookie guard LaBradford Smith, who has played a total of five minutes while nursing a sore ankle, entered the game. With this small lineup, Eackles played forward.
The strategy backfired as the Nets used the outside shooting of Coleman and Mookie Blaylock to gain a 39-34 cushion. But Bullets coach Wes Unseld's reserves lost no further ground until Harvey Grant's two free throws tied it at 44.
The Bullets began to use their traps on defense and regained the lead, 52-50, on Larry Stewart's fast-break layup. Washington led, 55-54, at halftime.
Ellison led the Bullets with 15 points and seven rebounds. Coleman had 15 and nine for New Jersey.
The teams traded baskets early in the second half, but the bigger Nets were getting second and third shots on the offensive glass. Grant was assessed a technical for complaining about a non-call. Coleman converted and followed with a three-point play to give New Jersey a 64-63 edge.
Stewart drew his third foul and was replaced by Charles Jones. Consecutive layups by David Wingate and two free throws by Grant pushed the Bullets back on top, 72-68.