Elvin Hayes said yesterday that the Washington Bullets had been peaking too early and that the recent five-game losing streak has straightened them out.
"We are where we should be now," the Bullet forward said after the team's two-hour practice at Bowie State. "We were playing so well before that losing streak that there was no way we could have kept it up. We got a lot of bad stuff out of our system during that stretch. It helped get our minds back together, too."
The Bullets broke that losing streak with flair Sunday, bumping off the San Antonio Spurs, 135-116, at Capital Centre.
Hayes called that game "The best we have played as a until all season.
"If we always play like that, there's no way anybody can beat us. We'd blow everybody out. They'd just throw up their hands when they saw us coming."
The Cleveland Cavaliers, here for an 8:05 p.m. game today, aren't about to throw their hands up and lay down for the Bullets.
The Cavaliers are struggling for a playoff spot and still have an outside chance of winning the Central Division. A victory over the Bullets woule certainly help. The Bullets, meanwhile, are trying to overtake Central leader Houston.
It will be difficult for the Bullets to make up three games with only 12 left, but Hayes is confident they can do it.
"Houston is tough. There's no doubt about that," Hayes said. "They're the team to watch, but I still say we'll catch them."
Hayes, seventh in the National Basketball Association in scoring with a 24-point average, has averaged 20 points in the last three games.
His scoring is down because of foul trouble. Hayes had had five fouls in each of the games and had four in the first quarter against San Antonio.
"I've noticed that they (the officials) are calling more fouls on me lately," Hayes said, "but I'm not going to let it change my game. All I can do is go out and play the way I always do. The officials are just trying to get control of the games early. I just try not to let it bother me."
Cleveland, once the hottest team is the NBA, winning 16 of its first 20 games, has been having its troubles the last couple of months and is just now starting to get back on track.
Nate Thurmond, whom Hayes considers, the Cavaliers' most valuable player, injured his knee in early February and was thought to be lost for the season. He now says he hopes to be back in time for the playoffs.
"Losing Nate really hurt them," Hayes said, "He was a big key to that ball club. He was their plugger on defense. Jim Chones and Elmore Smith are good centers, but they play just alike. Where they are weak is where Nate was strong."
Jim Cleamons, the Cavaliers' playmaker, has a badly injured groin muscle and has missed eight of their last 11 games. Campy Russell, their leading scorer with a 17.8 average, has been out since March 8 with a sprained ankle.
Of the healthy Cavaliers, form Mackin High School and Notre Dame star Austin Carr is the leading scorer with a 15.6 average. Bobby Smith is averaging 13.9.
Cleveland has gotten help from Smith and Gary Browkaw, whom they acquired from Milwaukee last month.
"They have a good team because they run their patterns," Hayes said. "They'll be in the playoffs, but last year was their year. They had everything going for them."