LANDOVER -- Last night's game was an opportunity for the Washington Bullets to get back into the win column and perhaps a chance to beat up on one of the new expansion teams. Instead, the Bullets found themselves a footnote in the brief history of the Toronto Raptors.
That's what happened after Toronto rookie point guard Damon Stoudamire calmly backed Robert Pack down in the lane and hit a 13-foot jumper with 2.5 seconds left that helped the Raptors to a 103-102 win before a sellout crowd of 18,756 fans at the USAir Arena.
The Raptors came here last night with only two wins -- both at home at SkyDome -- and left with the first road win in franchise history.
And the Bullets walked away from the game a frustrated team, putting back-to-back losses together for the first time this season. Calbert Cheaney had a chance to bring the Bullets all the way back from an 18-point deficit and win the game at the buzzer, but his jumper in the lane bounced off the back rim.
It was not just that the Bullets lost again, but how they lost. As was the case in Friday's 110-100 loss at Boston, the Bullets came out flat and had to play an unsuccessful game of catch-up the entire night.
"The first six games we played pretty solid games," Bullets coach Jim Lynam said. "My concern at this point is we played two subpar defensive games back-to-back. We have to get untracked."
Those subpar defensive efforts have resulted in the only two times that opponents have shot better than 50 percent against the Bullets this season. Last night, the Raptors shot 52.1 percent from the field, including a solid fourth quarter when they hit seven of 12 shots.
Stoudamire's 23 points led the Raptors, and he also added 10 assists for a solid all-around game.
But Washington had taken a 102-101 lead with 47 seconds left on a jumper by Juwan Howard (25 points, six rebounds).
Stoudamire then turned the ball over, but Howard was called for a controversial offensive foul with 11 seconds left. That left the game in the hands of Stoudamire, who was poised as he backed Pack into the lane, and then launched a short left-handed jumper that found all net.
"I told [the team] in the huddle that I was going to make the shot," Stoudamire said. "I said 'This is gonna be a money play.' I was thinking shot all the way. There was no doubt in my mind."
Still the Bullets had one chance to win the game. After calling a timeout, the ball wound up in the hands of Cheaney. But his shot from just inside the free-throw line hit off the back rim and a discouraged Cheaney dropped to the floor as the Raptors celebrated.
"I just went up and jerked it," Cheaney said. "I held on to it a little bit long, and it just wouldn't go down."
And for the second night in a row, the Bullets wasted an opportunity to pad their record against two of the weaker teams in the league.
The Celtics had won just one game before Friday's 10-point victory. Although the Raptors had been competitive, having fourth-quarter leads in six of their first eight games, they are still an expansion team, and had just two wins going into last night.
While Howard said he didn't look at Boston and Toronto as easy wins, there was no hesitation when he was asked whether the Bullets were a better team.
"Absolutely," Howard said. "But now we have to put these two games behind us, and look toward Detroit [on Wednesday]. When you have home games, you should take advantage of it. It's tough when you have to play catch-up in the second half of the last two games. We were playing not to lose, instead of playing to win."
On Friday, the Bullets were without rookie Rasheed Wallace, who missed the game after his mother suffered a stroke last week.
Wallace was back last night and scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds, but his play was not much of a factor.
Pack had 20 points and 14 assists, but his play over the last two games was below his performances over the first six. Pack missed 11 of 14 shots from the field last night.
For the Bullets it all added up to 44.4 percent shooting from the field, the second night in a row that the best shooting team in the league shot below 50 percent from the field.
The Bullets, who were impressive in a 32-point win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, will get a day off today before reporting to practice on Monday.
"This is a learning experience for us," said Cheaney, who hit just five of 18 shots on his way to a 17-point night. "We did an excellent job of getting back, but we came up short. There's a lesson to be learned."