"We've played 89 games and I'm still wondering," said Bullet coach Dick Motta yesterday after a 3 1/2-hour film-practice session in preparation for Friday night's fifth game in Houston.
The Rockets evened the series at two games each Tuesday night with a 107-103 victory at Capital Centre, regaining the home-court advantage.
"The most important game of the series," understated Motta, "is coming up."
What puzzles Motta and many if the Bullet fans is the team's inconsistency: on some nights it is a running, confident club - as good as any in the league; other nights the Bullets appear to stalk their shadows, waiting to be defeated.
"I just never know what to expect from them, Motta said. "It's hard to get a reading on them. It always has been."
"We aren't good front-runners, I know that and we seem to play better when are backs are against the wall.
"Well," Motta added, "our backs are certainly against the wall. But I see no reason why we shouldn't go down there and win one. The series is where it should be now, each tear has won every other game."
One reason Motta is having such a difficult time getting a reading on this team is that some players are not completely sold on Motta and his coaching techniques.
Motta's strenght is in his teaching.
"He is one of the best teachers in the game," general manager Bob Ferry said. "That was one of the biggest things in my mind when I hired him. We needed to get and develop some young talent. We were an old team last year, but we've been quickly rebuilding and when you are in a rebuilding situation, you need a good teacher."
But the Bullets have some players who don't want to be taught. They would rather be left alone to play. And often when games get down to critical spots they forget what they are supposed to do and it costs them.
Tuesday night they rushed down-court twice and took quick shots in situations Motta had told them beforehand he wanted a time-out. And, as quick as their shots, the Bullets had lost the game.
The Rockets have sold out the 15, 276-seat summit for Friday's game. The sellout, coming after 1,500 tickets were sold yesterday, was the earlier in the club's 10-year history . . . Bullets made only 19 of 32 free throws Tuesday night; Rockets 15 of 19 . . . Mitch Kupchak, who had his first mortal game of the Houston series Tuesday, hit only four of 12 shots and got four rebounds. He missed yesterday's practice with a sore back, but is expected to work out today.