For New Jersey Nets point guard Kenny Anderson, walking onto the Baltimore Arena floor against the Washington Bullets brought back memories of his four-point effort when the two teams met just over a month ago.
"Yeah, I thought about it," Anderson said. "But I just wanted to play for my team."
What Anderson did last night was simply put his team on his back, scoring a career-high 42 points -- including the go-ahead basket on a twisting layup with 7.5 seconds left -- that helped the Nets to a 113-110 win before a crowd of 12,756 in the last game this season at the Baltimore Arena.
It was a complete game for Anderson, who also added 12 assists and six rebounds as the Nets won their fourth straight and moved above .500 for the first time since Nov. 9. His heroics offset a balanced attack by the Bullets who had five players in double figures, led by Calbert Cheaney's career-high 31 points.
It was the second straight career-high performance from Cheaney, but last night the spotlight was on Anderson, who scored 19 points in the third quarter -- a record against the Bullets.
His nine of 12 shooting in the period also tied a record for field goalsin a quarter against Washington.
"He's playing very well," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "He reminds me of a guy named Nate Archibald, the way he was slashing."
Despite Anderson, the Bullets appeared to have control of the game, taking a 105-99 lead after a fast-break dunk by Tom Gugliotta with 4:24 remaining.
Washington led, 110-109, and had a chance to increase the lead with Don MacLean shooting two free throws with 23.0 seconds left. But MacLean, an 80.8 percent free-throw shooter going into the game, missed both.
That set up Anderson, who worked off a screen and drove the lane. He was confronted by Gheorghe Muresan, but -- with his back to the basket -- threw up a shot over his shoulder that banked in for a 111-110 lead with 7.5 second
Washington's last chance for a win ended when Cheaney's shot was blocked by Benoit Benjamin with 2.1 seconds left. Benjamin was fouled after getting the rebound, and his two free throws with 0.2 seconds left ended the scoring.
"It just came down to that shot [Anderson] made with his back to the basket, and there was some luck involved," Unseld said. "We had a good chance to win, but we went to the line and missed."
Anderson's basket with 7.5 seconds left came after a stretch of nine minutes that he didn't score. Anderson, who scored his 40th point on a jumper with 9:25 left, but had a hard time getting his shot off after that against aggressive defensive pressure by Michael Adams (17 points, 12 assists). But there was no defending the winning shot.
"He can explode offensively," Adams said. "What I tried to do was go back at him offensively. We could have done a better job helping on the pick and roll. We didn't.
"He had a great game."
Also playing well for New Jersey was shooting guard Kevin Edwards, who scored 19 points. Like Anderson, Edwards also struggled in that first meeting scoring nine points.
Their contributions helped offset the loss of Derrick Coleman, who left the game in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. Coleman played just 29 minutes, scoring five points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
For the Bullets, it was a wasted effort in which five players scored in double figures. Adams and Gugliotta (15 points, 10 rebounds) had their second consecutive double-double.
It was still a loss, however, for the Bullets, who were looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since mid-January when they defeated the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. Washington built a 30-point lead in its 115-110 win at New Jersey on Jan. 11, but had no such success last night.
"It hurts -- we should have won this, but we just let it slip away," Gugliotta said. "Kenny Anderson was just determined to get to the basket. He did a good job, and we just couldn't stop him."