The Bullets have managed to stay ahead of their NBA challengers the last month despite a case of the blahs. But during the next 18 days, similar erratic performances could disrupt their so-far scintillating season.
Because Dorothy Hamill and her Ice Capade compatriots have Capital Centre tied up for three weeks, the Bullets don't have another home game until Feb. 20.
Until then, they play eight road games, including four on the West Coast, where they have won only twice in 14 tries.
They also have contests at San Antonio tonight (8:30, WDCA-TV-20), Houston and Philadelphia, all contending teams who are especially tough at home.
"We get through this period okay and we could be in good shape for the rest of the season," said Coach Dick Motta, noting that the Bullets play 15 of their last 25 games at home.
Motta acknowledged the club isn't as crisp or as consistent as he would like. It has won games more on talent than execution lately. For a coach who thrives on precision, that is discouraging.
"We overpower people," center Wes Unseld said, "but we really aren't playing all that well. We aren't running our plays like we should, and we know it."
Nor are the Bullets fast breaking particularly well. They ran frequently against Boston, a weak opponent, last week, but they had trouble with their transition game against Seattle and even Atlanta.
"It's hard to knock anything because we are winning," Motta said. "That's what is important. We aren't playing at quite the same level as we were earlier this season, but it is tough to stay at a peak over 82 games."
The players are aware that their accomplishments so far could be reduced by a poor showing the next 18 days. Bob Dandridge, for one, called the upcoming three weeks "a good test for us."
"At this point of the season," Dandridge said, doing well on the trip "will boost our confidence the rest of the way.If we don't, we will have to work that much harder down the stretch.
"But I think we will do well. We've eliminated the stigma of road games this year (the Bullets have the NBA's second-best road record), and that is going to help us."
Washington had a 10-3 record in January, a nifty accomplishment considering its problems with nagging injuries and what sometimes was a "who cares" attitude.
Still, Seattle is just two games behind in the race for the league's best record and Philadelphia trails by only three games in the loss column in the Atlantic Division battle.
"That's not much breathing room," playmaker Tom Henderson said.
One area in which the Bullets have shown improvement is foul shooting, and that could prove useful on the road, where close games are the norm for this club.
Elvin Hayes, who was below .500 from the line earlier in the season, has altered his style and has made 43 of 47 attempts (91 percent). Hayes had been flicking free throws at the basket, but now he is shooting with a smooth, wristy motion that resembles his jump shot technique.
Unseld, another notoriously poor foul shooter, has converted eight of 12 attempts, climbing over .600, by using a new hesitation method. He brings the ball to the top of his head, cocks his wrists and then pauses before firing.
Occasionally the result is something out of a Harlem Globetrotter game. Players along the foul lane stumble toward the basket while he pauses, the referee blows his whistle and the whole sequence has to be started again.
Washington and San Antonio have split two games this season, each winning on its home court... The Spurs have moved from .500 to one of the league's best records since installing James Silas as a starter at guard in place of Mike Gale. Silas was a star in the ABA before hurting his knee three years ago... Friday night's game at Houston also will be televised by WDCA-TV-20.