So what does the coach of the NBA's worst defensive team do to get out of last place?

"Oh, I wait for another 25 games or so to be played, because I know we won't be last then," the Bullets' Dick Motta said with a laugh.

Motta is convinced that all his club needs is games, not more practices, to start putting together some defensive continuity. That's why everyone in the Bullet camp is anxious to meet the Phoenix Suns tonight at 8:05 in Capital Centre.

"When you are only playing weekends, like we have been, you seem to be starting over every time," said Mitch Kupchak. "We all know that you can't determine anything from just four games. It will get better."

It couldn't get much worse. In their 1-3 start, the Bullets surrendered 126.5 points a game. The next worst defensive team in the league, Indiana has given up 117.

"It was easy to give up lots of points because of the games we got involved in," said Wes Unseld. "The runaways and blowouts have to hurt you defensively.

"We'll get it straightened out, and before 25 games. Hey, we better."

Although Motta is staying low-key about the defensive failures, he still was careful to emphasize to his players all week during practices "that defense all comes down to a matter of concentration, intensity and pride.

"If they want to play defense bad enough," said the man whose Chicago teams consistently led the NBA in defense, "they can stop people. If they don't, everyone will score."

Motta says the Bullets are getting beat switching from offense to defense. And the breakdown is coming especially between the foul lines.

"Nobody likes to run from foul line to foul line," he said, "because it's where a young guy starts feeling old. You don't like to be there because you can't hide there. If one guy is breaking down there, then the whole team is suffering."

There have been a lot of individual breakdowns. Last year Washington gave up 120 points only seven times - three times to Philadelphia - and the fourth time didn't come until March 13.

"I think the guards have got to do a better job delaying teams from getting into their offense," said guard Larry Wright. "The longer we can stop them from setting up, the longer our big men have to get into the defense."

Despite Motta's preaching during workouts about "turning after you score and looking for the ball," the Bullets' starting team was burned consistently on fast breaks by the reserves in practice yesterday.

At one point, Motta asked the starters whether "you have any pride?" Later, he said the club was tired of practicing.

"It's been so long since we've played that I forget the rules," he said. "Even your mind gets into a rhythm.

"With five days between games, you really can't work on anything. Instead, all you do is watch them beat on each other."

Phoenix is just as quick as the Bullet reserves. The suns are running more this year while still maintaining their precise offense, which is keyed by the passing of center Alvan Adams.

The addition of rookie Walter Davis from North Carolina has opened up the running game. Davis starts at forward along with Gar Heard, while Curtis Perry is the leading frontcourt reserve.

The Suns gave up Ricky Sobers in an off season deal in order to obtain playmaker Don Busse from Indiana.Busse, who led the NBA in assists and steals last year, allow coach John MacLeod to use second-year guard Ron Lee as a sparkplug off the bench. Paul Westphal, one of the league's best jump-shooters off a fast break, tops the team in scoring.

Deep backcourts like that of the Suns have bothered the Bullets, especially with Phil Chenier still not 100 per cent. Motta said that until Chenier is healthy "we have to neutralize some of their height advantage by using our quickness or our full-court press.

"Sometimes there isn't much you can do about a John Williamson (of Indiana) muscling in and scoring. But Larry (Wright) has the kind of quickness that can bother people in a press. And the way he is playing, he has to worry them even more when we have the ball."