PHILADELPHIA -- For the first time in five weeks, the Washington Bullets posted consecutive victories and ended a seven-game losing streak against Philadelphia by beating the 76ers, 94-89, at the Spectrum last night.
Point guard Michael Adams, with his clutch defensive play, joined rookie Tom Gugliotta and Harvey Grant in sparking a decisive 18-2 Bullets run in the last four minutes to win their first road game since Washington beat the Mavericks in Dallas Feb. 10. It was only the Bullets' sixth victory in 32 road games.
Adams led Washington (18-43) with 21 points. Gugliotta and Grant chipped in with 20 apiece. Philadelphia (20-41), also lottery-bound, was led by Armon Gilliam's 28 points.
This was the Bullets' first game against the 76ers since Fred Carter replaced Doug Moe earlier this month. He won his head coaching debut in Minnesota, but then dropped three in a row.
During his brief reign, Carter has installed a more structured offense, replacing Moe's free-lance system, and also placing greater emphasis on defense.
"We're still trying to find our stride," said Carter, who began his NBA career in 1969 as a guard with the Baltimore Bullets. "The guys are playing hard. We've got to be patient with each other."
The Bullets, coming off an upset victory over Cleveland in Baltimore Monday, jumped out to a 14-6 lead. This spurt featured excellent ball movement, with Grant capitalizing with a layup and a pair of dunks.
Washington then blew three straight layups and an opportunity to open a comfortable margin. The 76ers were intent on getting the ball down low to Clarence Weatherspoon, and the rookie forward used his bulk to muscle his way around Charles Jones.
Despite making only seven of its first 23 shots, Philadelphia trimmed the deficit to 20-16 on Gilliam's three-point play. The small crowd got a wake-up call when Weatherspoon slammed home a lob pass by Hersey Hawkins.
A nifty out-of-bounds play resulted in an uncontested layup by Gugliotta in the closing seconds of the quarter to provide the Bullets with a 26-18 cushion.
Washington shot 52 percent (12-for-23) compared to Philadelphia's woeful 28 percent (8-for-28).
Doug Overton, sidelined since January with a thumb injury, returned to action in the second quarter. Several minutes later, the Bullets rookie got in a shoving match with Jeff Hornacek. Both guards were assessed technicals.
Washington padded its lead to 34-24 before the 76ers got their offense in gear and ran off nine straight points. Most of their baskets came in transition as they consistently beat the Bullets down court.
After Adams ended this spree with a drive down the lane, Philadelphia gained its first lead, 37-36, on consecutive layups by Hornacek and Weatherspoon.
But Adams and Larry Stewart combined to rally the Bullets to a 44-42 halftime edge.
Weatherspoon led the scorers with 13 points. Grant, Adams and Stewart had 10 apiece for the Bullets. Gugliotta grabbed eight rebounds in the first half.
Both teams struggled to make a run in the third quarter. Two baskets by Hawkins reclaimed the lead for the 76ers, 50-48.
After six minutes, the Bullets had only six points. But the 76ers got called for a rare "isolation" violation on offense, leading to a LaBradford Smith breakaway layup.
Washington put a mild spurt together and moved ahead, 60-59, on a short jumper by Grant. Two more baskets by Grant left the visitors with a 64-61 advantage after three quarters.
After rookie forward Don MacLean made it 66-61, the 76ers tied it at 66 on a Weatherspoon baseline jumper and Ron Anderson's three-pointer.
The lead changed hands three times in the next few minutes before Gilliam scored five straight points to give the home team a 74-70 lead.
Gilliam was everywhere, scoring on jumpers, inside moves and tip-ins for an 82-76 lead with five minutes left. Adams answered with a steal and layup and a three-point shot to close within a point.
Following a 76ers timeout, Adams swiped the ball again to score and put Washington back in front, 83-82. A fast break led to a Gugliotta layup for an 85-82 lead with 2:45 to play.
NOTES: This was a "homecoming" of sorts for Overton, a La Salle graduate and Philadelphia native. Overton had been out since undergoing thumb surgery Jan. 15.
"I was playing well before I got hurt," said Overton, averaging 9.2 points and 4.1 assists. "If you're having a good year, you don't want it to end. But I'm just fortunate it was a thumb, not a knee, that put me down. At least I have a chance to finish out the season."
Signed by Washington as a free agent, Overton had played in the CBA and Australia after being waived by the Detroit Pistons in 1991. His aggressive style should guarantee him a roster spot next season.
"We've made both Doug and his agent, Steve Mountain, aware that we want him back next year," said general manager John Nash. "We will at least give him a qualifying offer."