It didn't matter that the Big Dog wasn't in the house last night.
The top pick in last spring's draft, Glenn Robinson, aggravated a hip-pointer injury before the game and did not play, but former Bullet Marty Conlon scored 20 points, two below his career high, and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks past Washington, 114-111, before 12,756 at Baltimore Arena.
Bullets coach Jim Lynam attributed the loss to poor defense after his team's late rally fell short.
"It was our defense, or lack thereof," Lynam said. "They shot 53 percent from the field and made 32 free throws."
Lynam did not attribute the defensive breakdowns to the quickness of point guard Eric Murdock (17 points) and center Eric Mobley (career-high 12 points, 12 rebounds), though they burned their slower Bullets counterparts, Scott Skiles and Gheorghe Muresan.
Lynam viewed it as a team problem.
"To be honest, if that were an excuse, I'd use it, but it's not," he said.
The Bullets' defensive ineptitude was symbolized by the play of Conlon -- a slow, 6-foot-11 reserve with an ugly-looking jump shot.
Conlon, who filled in for Rookie of the Year candidate Robinson, averaged only five points in his 14 games with the Bullets, but burned his former teammates.
Some of them knew that Conlon can play better than some might think.
"You look at him and you might underestimate him," said guard Rex Chapman. "That's something you can't do with Marty Conlon."
Calbert Cheaney led the Bullets with 26 points. Skiles had 25 points and eight assists and Chris Webber and Juwan Howard finished with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
Todd Day led the Bucks with 26.
The Bullets played catch-up most of the second half, but briefly made it a close game at the beginning and end of the fourth quarter.
After Murdock's three-pointer gave the Bucks an 89-81 lead with 10 minutes left, the Bullets went on a 7-0 run. A three-pointer by Cheaney, a nice spin move by Webber and a 12-footer by Howard, and the Bullets only trailed by one with 8:18 left.
But four turnovers later, the Bucks had built their lead back up to 10 with five minutes to play.
Last-minute three pointers by Skiles and Cheaney pulled the Bullets within three, but Webber's desperation shot from halfcourt slammed off the backboard as time expired.
"We made critical turnovers down the stretch," Howard said. "Just like what Coach was saying, you can't win ballgames like that.
The Bullets shined in the second quarter, in what can be described as their great point guard experiment.
Chapman, fresh off the injured list after his right thumb injury finally healed, started the second quarter at point guard instead of Skiles.
Chapman finished with 14 points and five assists in 32 minutes.
"I felt really comfortable," Chapman said. "I've played some spot point guard a lot of my career. It gives you a different look."
It also freed up Cheaney, who scored 13 points that quarter, when the Bullets shot 65 percent from the field.
Cheaney scored six straight points beginning with a driving layup off a nice pass from Chapman with 10:26 left in the half.
He followed the layup with a three-pointer, also off a pass from Chapman. Cheaney's turnaround jumper over Mobley gave the Bullets a 36-30 lead with 9:11 left in the half.
But with 4:41 left in the half, Skiles returned to the point. Cheaney, who later got into foul trouble, and Chapman stayed in the game.
The Bullets led 56-55 at halftime.
Lynam said the backcourt experiment would continue.
"I'm going to play [Chapman] some at the point," he said. "He has to get his minutes. He was comfortable there. He did a very good job."
NOTES: Chapman's return sent Larry Stewart (sore back) to the disabled list. . . . The plays of the night came during a timeout. With 4:02 left in the third quarter, Colin Formulak, 28, who lives in Washington, swished two half-court shots to win a 1995 GMC Truck.