LANDOVER -- Shaquille O'Neal sat out last night's game at USAir Arena with a sore left knee, so it figured that a point guard would have a major role in the Orlando Magic-Washington Bullets game. It's just that no one figured that the point guard would be Doug Overton.
But Overton played the game of his three-year career and scored 30 points, including a key layup in overtime that helped the short-handed Bullets beat the Magic, 123-117, before a sellout crowd of 18,756.
Yes, the Bullets dressed just eight players. But the worst team in the East wasn't short on effort against the best in the conference, a Magic team that had clinched the Atlantic Division title with a victory over the Bullets on Monday night.
Chris Webber came through with his third triple double of the season -- 17 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. Juwan Howard scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds. And Washington (20-60) won for the second time in three games.
"Everyone that played, from Chris down to Kenny Walker and Larry Stewart, they did a great job," Bullets' coach Jim Lynam said. "I can't recall ever playing with eight. Juwan wanted to know if it was an NBA record, winning with eight players."
Howard was claiming such after the game, thoroughly impressed by the way the Bullets, who waived one of their healthy players, Anthony Tucker, earlier in the day responded.
"I don't think it's ever been done before," Howard said. "We played hard. This whole season we never gave up."
The Bullets dominated most of the game, leading by as many as 13 points at one point, and the Magic, led by Anfernee Hardaway's 35 points, never led.
But Orlando did come back strong at the end of regulation, after trailing by 12 points after a jumper by Don MacLean (17 points an an aggressive 24 minutes) with 9:47 left.
Hardaway led the comeback, scoring 12 of his points in the fourth quarter. And the Magic tied the game at 111 on a driving layup by Donald Royal with 50 seconds remaining.
The Magic had a chance to take the lead, and it got the ball down in the post to Horace Grant with 11 seconds left. But Grant's layup attempt was blocked by Webber, and the Bullets had the ball and a chance to win.
With the shot clock winding down, Howard lobbed a pass to Webber near the rim. The play has worked many times this season, but Webber could not gather the ball, and his shot just missed, forcing overtime.
Washington had a one-point lead in the overtime when Overton found Mitchell Butler alone in the right corner. Butler's three-pointer with 1:11 left hit all net and gave Washington a 119-116 lead.
Overton then scored on a driving layup with 34 seconds left for a 121-115 lead, clinching the victory.
Midway through the season the Bullets' coaching staff appeared to have lost confidence in Overton, at times using Butler and Rex Chapman as backups to Scott Skiles. But Overton stepped into the starting role after Skiles was placed on the injured list March 17, and he has averaged 19 points in his past five games.
Last night Overton hit 11 of 17 shots and had two turnovers in 44 minutes. His previous career high was 23 points.
"I was able to get to the basket with Shaq not there," Overton said. "It was fun. I was hitting my open shot. I just picked my spots."
And over the latter part of this season, Overton may have picked his spots well enough to earn him a decent role somewhere next season.
He has one more season left on his contract with the Bullets.
"[Hardaway] told me during the game the team was just getting ready for the playoffs, and I told him this is the playoffs for me," Overton said. "I don't want the season to end. Since I've been able to start, I think I've been playing well. I wanted to get out there and prove myself, and playing has allowed that."
For the Magic, is wasn't necessarily a crushing loss, considering the team has clinched home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Yet there is some concern in Orlando because the Magic has lost 15 of its past 19 road games, including six in a row.
"We get up for the big teams like Phoenix," Hardaway said. "But Washington, Sacramento and Dallas, we just don't get up for these games. I guess it's a sign of a young team."
And it could be a sign of a team primed for another early playoff exit.
"We're still not executing the way we should," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "We should do a better job closing out games."