There is good news tonight for those probasketball aficianados who have been hoarding their inflated dollars until an NBA regular season game worthy of their discriminating taste visited Capital Centre.
The wait is over. It's time to break into the piggybanks and buy a ticket for what should be a beauty of a contest: the Bullets, who have been one of the hottest teams in the league, against an even more torrid foe, the streaking Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers bring a 14-game winning string into the 8:05 p.m. game and have moved into a virtual tie with Seattle for first place in the Pacific Division. The Bullets have captured their last five and eight of their last 10 to put them back into contention for the Atlantic Division crown.
Both clubs feature excellent shooters, awesome front courts and impressive depth. And the way they have been going lately, you may need a computer to keep up with their scoring.
The winning streak has been particularly important for Los Angeles, which finally has displayed all the talent the last year prompted many experts to pick the lakers to take the NBA title.
But few were willing to embrace Los Angeles after Coach Jerry West's team stumbled to a 45-37 record and quick elimination in the playoffs.
The problems of last year have turned into strengths. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has ended his self-imposed sleepwalk through games, the all-star front court has learned to play with one basketball and the bench is giving consistently strong performances.
"Everyone was asking last year what was wrong with us," forward Adrian Dantley said yesterday. "All that was wrong was we needed some time to get used to each other. Now we are playing well together. It makes all the difference in the world."
This is what the Lakers can do when they play as a unit: they've shot 54 percent during the last 14 games, twice going over 60 percent. During that stretch, Dantley is hitting at a 60 percent clip. Abdul-Jabbar at 58 percent and guard Norm Nixon at 59. They are outscoring foes by 10 points a game and have won five times on the road, including a 121-114 triumph in Houston Wednesday night.
"The good thing about this season is that everyone is picking up for each other," said Dantley. "If someone has a bad game, another guy is coming through. Like (reserve guard) Jimmy Price had 18 points in 21 minutes against Chicago last week.
We were all hesitant on offense last year. Everyone would be waiting for someone else to make a move. Now if you have a shot, you take it. You don't hesitate."
The Laker's success still hinges on the play of Abdul-Jabbar. His presence allows West to use two small forwards - Dantley and Jamaal Wilkes - at the same time and not get burned with matchup problems. Abdul-Jabbar also must supply the bulk of the rebounding on what is not a good rebounding team and he remains the man who must provide key points in close games.
"But I think he realizes that he doesn't have to do it all on his own anymore," said Dantley. "Kareem doesn't have as much pressure now to carry us offensively. Jamaal and Norm and myself can score too, so he can concentrate on the rest of the game."
Dantley and Abdul Jabbar, who both are averaging 23 points, even have worked out what had been a nagging problem: who occupies the immediate territory around the basket on offense?
Each likes to play a low post, but Dantley says he is shooting more now from the outside.
The Lakers have plenty of talent to complement their two top performers. Nixon, the second-year man from Duquesne, is developing into a star. Along with his 17 points and eight assists a game, he ignites the Lakes fast break with his quickness better than anyone since West retired. Ron Boone, acquired in an offseason trade with Denver for Charley Scott, has been a pleasure surprise with his outside shooting. Wilkes, who was disappointing last year, is regaining his old form while averaging 17 points.