The current edition of the Washington Bullets has shown three undesirable characteristics so far this National Basketball Association season.
The Bullets have had difficulty putting a healthy first team on the floor, difficulty winning the close games and difficulty winning on the road.
If the Bullets, NBA champions two seasons ago and runners-up last season, are to right themselves, they must do it soon or this season could go down the drain before it is half over.
Just as winning breeds confidence, losing breeds self-doubt.
The Bullets have lost five of seven games this season and they are already five games behind Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia. The Bullets have a better record than only three of the league's remaining 21 teams.
Because of assorted injuries, the Bullets have started their No. 1 unit in only one game this season. They are 0-5 on the road and of their five defeats, four were decided in the final two minutes and three in the final seconds.
"It seems like at the end of the games we just aren't doing things right," said Elvin Hayes. "We're having all sorts of little breakdowns. I don't know what it is, but we need to get untracked from it. We have to start winning some of these close games. That's supposed to be one of our strengths."
The Bullets were trailing Indiana by one point with 2:32 to play Friday, Then lost, 118-108, at Market Square Arena.
Reserve Greg Ballard scored a career-high 26 points and had 12 rebounds, but the Bullets were done in by the Pacers' Mickey Johnson, who turned in one of the league's most impressive individual overall performances this season.
Johnson, a former Chicago Bull who signed with the Pacers as a free agent during the summer, scored 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and had 14 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals and a blocked shot in 34 minutes. He also committed only two turnovers. He is Indiana's sixth man.
The Bullet's injury situation may be imporved by the time they play again Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavalers at Capital Centre.
Bob Dandridge, who played in the season-opener and then missed the next four games with a strained ligament in his foot, returned to action Wednesday against Detroit and scored 23 points. He followed that with an 18-point effort against the Pacers.
But just as Dandridge was returning, starting guard Kevin Grevey was leaving. He has a sore hamstring muscle and didn't make the trip to Detroit or Indiana. He is expected to be available by Wednesday.
Both Detroit and Indiana do not look like very good teams at this point in the season as both have had a large turnover in personnel from a year ago, another reason why the Bullets' performances against them were upsetting to Coach Dick Motta . . . Motta went from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City to be with his ailing mother and center Wes Unseld went to Louisville to be with his father, who also is ill . . . Unseld was the league's fourth-leading rebounder after five games with a 13.4 average, but then got 21 rebounds against Detroit and 17 against Indiana . . . Hayes said he was having breathing problems throughout Friday's game and finally had to take himself out in the final four minutes when he started having throat spasms and began gaging. "It started in the first half and then got worse." Hayes said, "I just couldn't get any air." He is expected to be fine by Wednesday.