PHILADELPHIA -- There were no cries of "break up the Bullets" after Washington rallied in the last quarter to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers, 94-89, before an intimate crowd of 7,757.
But several positive developments took place at The Spectrum last night:
* The Bullets (18-43) posted consecutive wins for the first time since early February when they defeated Houston and Dallas to begin a western swing.
* They ended a frustrating seven-game losing streak against the 76ers, dating to April 1991.
* And they broke an eight-game road drought in registering only their sixth win in 22 road games.
All this happened thanks to an explosive 18-2 run in the final four minutes when the Bullets transformed an 82-76 deficit into a 94-84 lead. The 76ers made it look deceptively close by scoring five meaningless points in the last eight seconds.
Armon Gilliam had staked the 76ers to a six-point lead by scoring 13 of his 28 points in the first seven minutes of the last quarter.
Bullets coach Wes Unseld then switched assignments, replacing rookie Tom Gugliotta with defensive-minded Charles Jones, who held Gilliam scoreless the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Michael Adams (21 points, 10 assists) ignited the Bullets rally by sandwiching a pair of basket-producing steals around a three-pointer to give the visitors an 83-82 edge.
This all happened in less than a minute, and the 76ers (20-41), who have lost four straight under coach Fred Carter, never recovered.
Gugliotta (20 points, 13 rebounds) and Harvey Grant (20 points) joined Adams on the 18-2 run while the slim crowd occupied itself imploring Carter to "Put in 'Nute" (7-foot-6 center Manute Bol).
Beating another lottery-bound team is hardly cause for jubilation, but in a season filled with negatives, Unseld felt it was worth relishing.
"It's hardly a streak, but I'm delighted," he said. "There is not a lot of light at the end of the tunnel. But I want to see us continue to play hard.
"That's all you try to instill in a team from Day One. If you put in
the effort, at some point you'll start playing well. And when that happens, you've got a shot to win."
Getting a young team to extend itself defensively is the toughest job, but the Bullets pulled together to frustrate the 76ers with the game on the line.
"We played good, helping defense," said Gugliotta. "If one of their guys got open on the perimeter, we had someone take a run at him."
But it was unsung Jones who was the focal point of the defense in clamping down on Gilliam.
"Carter is from the old school," said Jones, "and I knew he would keep milking Gilliam as long as he was scoring.
"Gilliam is more effective down on the block. When he gets down low, he can use either hand to score. I just pushed him farther out on the floor. When he missed a couple in a row, they stopped going to him."
Carter, who replaced Doug Moe March 7, said that was hardly the reason the 76ers let this one slip away, their seventh loss at home in the past eight games.
"The will to win was not there, period," said Carter, who began his pro career as a guard for the 1969-70 Baltimore Bullets. "This was a game we seemingly had control of. But we've had our tails kicked up and down the East Coast. This was supposed to be a new beginning, but we just haven't made a commitment to playing tough basketball."
Veteran guard Hersey Hawkins was even more critical.
"We've made a million excuses, so when you hear a new one, let me know," he said. "The way we're playing now is ridiculous."
With two straight wins, the Bullets are trying to build something positive for next season. The 76ers are trying to avoid a rebellion.