EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Washington Bullets rookie Tom Gugliotta, who grew up across the river on Long Island, had his own rooting section of family and friends at the Meadowlands Arena last night and responded with 19 points, 15 rebounds and three assists.
But Gugliotta got little help from his teammates as the New Jersey Nets limited the Bullets to 12 points in the second quarter to gain a 59-46 halftime lead and fought off a late rally for a 111-104 victory.
Washington (1-5) trimmed a 16-point deficit early in the last quarter to 103-97 on a three-point shot by Rex Chapman (21 points) with just under two minutes remaining.
Harvey Grant then swiped an inbounds pass to set up an open three-pointer by Chapman, but the shot bounced off the back rim, and the Bullets never drew closer.
In the closing minutes, the Nets (3-3) made excellent use of a familiar pick-and-roll play that new coach Chuck Daly brought with him from Detroit. Only this time, Drazen Petrovic played the role of Isiah Thomas, with ex-Pistons forward Rick Mahorn setting his customary bone-rattling screens.
Petrovic, who scored a game-high 32 points, crammed 16 into the fourth quarter. If Chapman gave him room, he buried his feathery jump shot. If Chapman tried to fight through Mahorn's pick, the Croatian-born guard would break free for a layup in the lane.
"Rick really set some good screens," said Petrovic. "But give Coach Daly credit, too. After I made a couple of outside shots, Daly said, 'Keep running that play.' Hey, it was easy for me to follow orders."
Daly credited Mahorn, who signed a three-year contract for $1.95 million last week after being released by Il Messagero of the Italian League.
"I just like his professionalism," said Daly, who also employs Mahorn to keep temperamental star forward Derrick Coleman (20 points, 14 rebounds) in line. "Rick is a 'no-bull' guy. He can do a lot of effective things for us whether he's playing three minutes or 13. He's a welcome addition to this team."
Said Mahorn: "I learned how to set those picks from [Bullets coach] Wes Unseld. "Sacrificing my body, that's what I get paid to do."
The Bullets might not have been intimidated by Mahorn and Petrovic in crunch time if Pervis Ellison had not again found himself in early foul trouble.
With Ellison in the lineup, rebounding and initiating the fast break, the Bullets jumped to a 15-4 lead. But when the slender center picked up his second foul at the six-minute mark, he was benched for the remainder of the first half.
And everything quickly unraveled for the Bullets. They were outscored 29-12 in the second quarter, including one stretch in which they committed four straight turnovers.
"Early on, we moved the ball real well to get easy baskets," said point guard Michael Adams (16 assists). "But then we just started standing around. In the second quarter, we just couldn't get off any good shots, and that's why we need Pervis in there to start the break and block some shots."
But Unseld was more distressed by the lack of defense than his team's ragged offense.
Asked to describe the defense, Unseld said, "What defense?"
Someone asked specifically about Chapman not containing Petrovic.
"Defense is a little know-how and a lot of hard work," said Unseld, who made the Hall of Fame for his work on the defensive end of the floor. "The biggest thing is to get the idea inside your head that you want to stop your guy from scoring."
Chapman said his problems down the stretch were partly due to foul problems. He fouled out with 61 seconds left.
"I had five fouls and couldn't be as aggressive as I wanted to," he said. "But they worked their pick plays well. You have to decide whether to fight through the pick or double the guy coming through."
* Free-agent guard Doug Overton came off the injured list (sore toe) and made his NBA debut with a scoreless four-minute appearance. The former LaSalle star filled the roster spot of LaBradford Smith, the second-year guard who suffered a
sprained ankle in the Bullets' victory over the Knicks on Friday night.