The New Year brought back the old Bullets last night. They pranced around the Capital Centre court with the spring and enthusiasm of November and the result was equal to the best games of the heady month: a 109-86 rout of Chicago.
The speeding Bullets might not have been able to leap tall buildings but they must have appeared to be Supermen to the Bulls, who fell behind by eight points before working up a sweat and never challenged the rest of the way.
All of Washington's nagging injuries that had brought about a limping end to December disappeared over a long weekend of rest.
Instead, these were lively players who shot 51 percent, ripped off fast breaks almost at will and put up a tough enough defense to hold Chicago to the lowest point total of any Bullet opponent this year.
Bullet Coach Dick Motta had resolved not to be impatient with his team when it lost three of its final five games last month. "We just need a few days off," he kept repeating.
"Well, at least I was right this time," he said last night. "I could tell in practice Monday that we were ready to play well.
"Our bodies were moving, just like during our streak in November. You could see we were practicing like winners. The rest cleared up our injuries. This is the first time in a long time that we have had people healthy out there."
It also is the first time in a month that the Bullets were able to blow out an opponent in the first quarter, something that was almost a nightly enent during their nine-game November winning streak.
After falling behind, 8-0, Chicago never came closer than six points and trailed by as many as 32. An 8-0 spurt later in the first quarter put Washington up by 21-7 and a 14-2 outbreak in the second made it 61-38 just before the half.
The second half was played in a semitrance by both clubs, who tried to get things over with as quickly as possible but were delayed 22 minutes by a clock malfunction.
Otherwise, it was an almost perfect game for Washington. Motta got contributions from all nine of his top players, with his slump-ridden reserves responding with their best effort in a couple of weeks.
Especially outstanding were Larry Wright, who has been playing well the last five games, and Charles Johnson, who has been struggling to cast off shooting woes that have considerably cut into his playing time.
Wright finally is rid of pain from an early season ankle injury and is displaying what teammate Tom Henderson says is "the best quickness in the league." He has made 27 of his last 45 shots and is giving zip to the sometimes lethargic Bullet fast break.
"I don't want to sound like I'm making excuses but I'm finally feeling like I did at the beginning of the season," said Wright, who had 13 points. "I can move and it doesn't hurt. I now feel my foot won't bother me at top speed. I only hope I can keep it this way.
"It seems every time I do feel good in my career, I get hurt and have to start over again."
When Wright is going good, the Bullets assume an even faster tempo than is established early in games by the starters.And when Johnson is performing well, the home crowd seems to get more involved in the proceedings, thanks to his outside shots.
It was vintage Johnson last night, tossing up bulls-eye 20-footers with the casualness of all streak shooters.
Even when playing badly, the Bullets still managed to win nine of 14 games in December. If last night was a sign of an upsurge, their future schedule could allow them to run off another win streak. And the way Philadelphia is playing, Washington has to keep winning to stay on top in the Atlantic Division.
The Bulls helped out by putting Artis Gilmore on Elvin Hayes. So Hayes moved outside and Washington fed Wes Unseld inside for 10 firsthalf points. Bobby Dandridge added 13 before intermission and Kevin Grevery 10.