LANDOVER -- There was an announced sellout crowd at the USAir Arena last night for the game between the Washington Bullets and Sacramento Kings, but you'd be hard-pressed to find the few who saw the ending. Those who did were very vocal in expressing their feelings about what they just witnessed.
Boos and jeers filled the air as the Bullets walked off the court after their 103-97 loss to the Kings.
The Kings were hardly deemed a threat, not with the second-worst record in the NBA and just one win on the road going into last night. But Sacramento, even with its best player a non-factor much of the night, was still able to overcome a 16-point, third-quarter deficit for the win.
What went wrong?
"How much paper you got?" was coach Wes Unseld's response.
Enough to say that after taking their biggest lead, 71-55, with 4:12 left in the third quarter, the Bullets were outscored 48-26 the rest of the way. Enough to say that Washington scored just one field goal in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter. And enough to say that the Bullets lost despite keeping Mitch Richmond, the NBA's No. 4 scorer before last night, to a season-low 13 points.
It's the second time in a week that the Bullets have lost to the Kings. But even though last week's 26-point defeat was the team's worst of the season, this one was much more difficult to swallow. The Bullets (8-19) have now lost 13 times in their past 15 games and, facing the Knicks in New York tonight, will more than likely finish with just two wins in December -- none at home.
"It's ridiculous!" said Bullets forward Tom Gugliotta, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds. "Sacramento didn't have anything to do with that loss. We just didn't execute."
Sacramento did, however, finishing with six players in double figures. Forward Lionel Simmons scored 27 points, and former Maryland star Walt Williams had 14 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in 37 minutes off the bench. Williams, who scored 16 against Washington last week, was scoreless in six minutes ** against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.
"That was arguably his best game since he's been back," Kings coach Garry St. Jean said of Williams, who missed the start of the season with a broken bone in his left leg.
The Kings also got a key contribution from LaBradford Smith. Cut by the Bullets on Dec. 4, Smith came back to haunt his former team, with five of his seven points coming in the fourth quarter. A jumper by Smith with 7:37 left gave the Kings the lead for good, 81-80.
Washington center Pervis Ellison started the game in place of Kevin Duckworth (flu) and blocked five shots -- establishing an individual high in blocks in the first 12 minutes. As Ellison helped clog the middle, the Bullets, with Rex Chapman (21 points) scoring 10 of the team's last 11 points in the first quarter, took a 26-18 lead.
Washington led 33-22 with 8:49 left in the half, but then the game turned ugly. The Bullets failed to score a field goal during the next 6:39 while the Kings began chipping away at the lead, going ahead on alayup by Pete Chilcutt with 3:55 left, 38-37. By halftime the Bullets -- who attempted 29 field goals and 28 free throws -- led by just 48-46.
Washington started the third quarter with a 23-9 run to take its biggest lead, 71-55, after a three-point play by Michael Adams with 4:12 left. Then Ellison sat down, Duckworth checked in and the roof caved in. The lead going into the fourth quarter was 76-72, and the collapse continued.
"It was just the same old pattern we've gotten ourselves into," Chapman said. "We get a big lead and then let the other team back in the game. This was just another game we should have won. You let a team like that hang around, hang around, hang around, and you end up getting beat."
Added a frustrated Gugliotta: "It seems like every time we get a 16-, 18-point lead we're moving the ball and getting to the line. Then we just try to win individually.
"There's a reason for us losing leads," he added. "I can't say exactly what it is, but we need to correct it."
NOTES: Mitchell Butler, on the injured list with a sore wrist, will be activated for tonight's game. . . Because of yesterday's snow, the Bullets are offering an exchange to ticket holders not attending the game. Unused tickets can be exchanged for tickets to the Jan. 27 game against Dallas. . . The Bullets have failed to score more than 100 points in their two games against the Kings, whose 110.4 points allowed was the league's worst going into last night.
Opponent: New York Knicks
Site: Madison Square Garden, New York
TV: Channel 20
Radio: WXZL (103.1 FM), WTEM (570 AM)
Outlook: New York won the first meeting, 92-84, in Landover on Nov. 10. The Knicks have lost three of their past five, including Tuesday's 97-95 home loss to the New Jersey Nets. They also lost Doc Rivers for the season six games ago with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee. His replacement, Greg Anthony, is shooting 32.3 percent from the field. C Patrick Ewing (22.1 ppg) and G John Starks (18.4) lead New York. Washington is 2-8 when playing the second of back-to-back games.