LANDOVER -- Washington Bullets guard Scott Skiles had just hit a three-pointer midway through the third quarter and the crowd at the USAir Arena was going wild. The Bullets were leading by 18 points and were on the verge of their third straight win, something that hasn't happened all season.
And then the Bullets totally collapsed. By the end of the quarter, the lead over the Golden State Warriors was just six, and by the fourth quarter the Bullets were playing catch-up, only to suffer a 121-118 overtime loss before 15,911.
The loss broke a two-game winning streak for the Bullets (10-28), and was the second loss to the Warriors this season. Golden State defeated Washington last month in the game Chris Webber separated his shoulder.
In winning, Golden State broke a 14-game road losing streak, winning away from home for the first time since Nov. 11.
The loss ruined a superb game by Calbert Cheaney, who scored a career-high 32 points. Skiles added 15 points and nine assists and Juwan Howard had 24 points and nine rebounds.
But the player who came through in the clutch was Warriors point guard Tim Hardaway, who scored 30 points, 19 of them after halftime.
"In close games, Hardaway's going to hurt you. He's going to hurt a lot of people," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "That's why he's Tim Hardaway."
Surprisingly, the Warriors were able to pull out the game without the services for most of the second half of Latrell Sprewell, who earlier in the day found out he was voted in as a starting guard for the All-Star Game. Sprewell played a season-low 25 minutes, leaving the game with 3:35 left in the quarter.
The 6-foot-5 guard had missed a game last week with a sprained right foot, but was not bothered by it last night. Sprewell, a close friend of Webber's, has had problems with coach Don Nelson since the trade.
On the night that Tom Gugliotta (14 points, nine rebounds, six steals) returned for his first game at the USAir Arena since the November trade, the Bullets played an impressive first half when they shot 58.3 percent and had a 55-49 lead.
Unlike their usual style of blowing leads right after halftime, the Bullets actually built on theirs in the third quarter, which they opened with a 15-7 run. After Skiles' three-pointer with 5:35 left, Washington's lead was 74-56.
But the Warriors scored the next nine points, pulling to within 74-65 after Gugliotta's three-pointer. In all the Warriors outscored Washington 17-3 over the final 5:21 of the quarter and went into the fourth quarter trailing 79-73.
"It was one of those things where everything came so easy early, and it just lulled us to sleep," guard Rex Chapman said. "We got lackadaisical offensively and stopped doing the things that got us the lead."
After Hardaway converted a three-point play and hit a three-pointer on back-to-back possessions, Golden State had a 90-86 lead.
Washington recovered, and led 107-105 with 24.4 seconds left when Howard hit a 15-foot jumper. Hardaway followed with a 20-foot jumper with 11.4 seconds left, tying the game and giving the Bullets an opportunity to win.
But the Bullets were unable to get off a shot. Skiles passed to Chapman, who not realizing how much time was left, was unable to shoot the ball before the buzzer.
"I was coming off a down screen and I thought I was going to get the ball earlier," Chapman said. "When I caught it, I thought there were five seconds left -- obviously there weren't."
In overtime, Warriors rookie Dwayne Morton scored seven of his career-high 14 points. The Warriors led by as many as six on their way to the win.
Golden State shot 48 free throws, 28 more than the Bullets. That statistic was not lost on Lynam, whose team is second from last in the league in free-throw attempts.
"We're fouling too much, and we're playing defense with our feet," Lynam said. "If you allowed a team to shoot 28 more free throws than you, well come on."
Usually you wind up losing. It's the second time this season the Bullets have blown an 18-point second-half lead, the other coming in the third game vs. Philadelphia.
"We just didn't show what it takes to win," Chapman said. "When you have a team down like that, you've got to put them away and we didn't."
NOTES: Kevin Duckworth, who missed the last nine games with a sore Achilles' tendon, played 20 minutes and scored two points. . . . Gugliotta visited the Bullets' locker room after the game. "It feels real different coming here with another team," he said. . . . Golden State's bench outscored Washington's 49-17.