LANDOVER -- Washington Bullets forward Tom Gugliotta had a couple of options as he got the ball with time running out and the score tied at 95 in last night's game against the Indiana Pacers. One option was to take a jumper, for which he was wide open; another was to kick the ball to Rex Chapman, who had a hot hand.
But then there was that wide-open lane right before his eyes . . .
"I was surprised to see the lane that open," Gugliotta said. "It was almost like a dream."
So Gugliotta drove the lane, hitting a scooping game-winning layup with 1.2 seconds left that gave the Bullets a 97-95 win over the Pacers before 10,041 at the USAir Arena. The win broke a six-game home losing streak for the Bullets (9-20), who fought back from a 12-point deficit in the final period to the delight of the crowd.
"It was great to get the crowd back in the game," said Michael Adams, who scored 12 points and ran the screen-and-roll play that set up Gugliotta's game-winner. "When we were down we just told ourselves it wasn't over, and we kept coming back. Duck did a heck of a job."
Duck? You remember Kevin Duckworth, the man who was suppose to provide a low-post threat but instead played himself onto the Bullets bench? Playing 14 minutes through the first three quarters Duckworth had five points and zero rebounds. But he came through in the fourth quarter, scoring nine points and giving the Bullets a lift.
"I was excited," said Duckworth, who played the full 12 minutes and even dived for one loose ball. "Everyone got involved, and that's what being a team is all about."
It was a roller-coaster night for the Bullets, who led by 10 early but fell behind by as many as 13 in a third quarter in which they hit just five of 14 shots (35.7 percent) and were out-rebounded 13-4.
But at the start of the fourth quarter, with coach Wes Unseld going with his starting backcourt of Ad
ams and Chapman and three reserves, the Bullets fought back. Duckworth got things started by scoring the first five points during an 18-2 run that gave Washington an 87-83 lead with 7:06 left.
Hitting nine of their first 11 shots from the field in the quarter, Washington had a 91-85 lead after two free throws by Chapman (25 points) with 5:45 left. Indiana responded with a 10-2 run of its own, taking a 95-93 lead after a layup by Vern Fleming with 52.3 seconds left.
Washington tied the game with two free throws by Duckworth with 39.2 seconds left and, after a missed shot by Fleming, Washington had a chance for the win. The Bullets had missed seven straight field-goal attempts, but after Adams was double-teamed, he set up Gugliotta.
This was a really big win for us -- it gets us off to a new start," said Gugliotta.
And it should continue if the Bullets can play defense as they did in the fourth quarter when they limited Indiana to 14 points on 20 percent shooting from the field (3-of-15). Dale Davis, who scored a career-high 28 points, didn't even attempt a shot in a scoreless fourth quarter.
"In the fourth they just got after us defensively," Pacers coach Larry Brown said. "We gave the game away."
In addition to Duckworth and Gugliotta, credit the contributions of Mitchell Butler and Kenny Walker down the stretch. Neither scored a lot of points (six and two, respectively), but both played solid defense that limited the fourth-quarter effectiveness of Davis and Reggie Miller, who scored just 12 points and shot an air ball at the final buzzer.
NOTES: Washington won despite being pounded on the boards, 45-27. . . . F Larry Stewart, who broke his foot last month, has delayed his surgery in order to seek a second opinion. . . .
Tickets are still available for tomorrow's game against the Chicago Bulls.