The lifeless Washington Bullets continued their slide into mediocrity last night when they were beaten by the lowly Indiana Pacers, 99-91, at Capital Centre.
Bullet Coach Dick Motta, struggling to get his team back on the right track, started Larry Wright in place of Kevin Porter as his playmaker, but it made little difference as the Bullets still looked disorganized and unsure of themselves, traits that have plagued them for most of the young season.
The defeat was their third in a row and fifth in their last six games.
The Pacers, who came into Capital Centre with a 2-13 road record, never appeared to be in danger of losing.
The Bullets shot only 39 percent for the game and the Pacers blocked 19 of their shots, a Capital Centre record.
Seven-foot center James Edwards had seven blocks and rookie guard Dudley Bradley had five.
Bullet guard Roger Phegley, starting his second game, provided practically the only offense for the Bullets. He made 12 of 19 shots and scored 25 points.
A 35-foot three-point shot at the buzzer by Wright enabled the Bullets to match their season scoring low.
"We're out of synch or something. "We're really hurting," Motta said. "I think we're starting to press now, too.
"We just aren't going through things with vigor. We were ugly tonight and we're in a bad slump. There just isn't much more you can say.
"All of us have to reach down and pull up our socks or we're going to get so far in a hole we'll never get out of it."
Bradley, from North Carolina has started the last seven games in place of Billy Knight and in addition to his shot-blocking last night, he had eight assists and scored 11 points. His guard mate, Johnny Davis, led the Pacers, now 11-15, with 22 points, 10 of them in the final 2 1/2 minutes.
An 18-foot jumper by Phegley cut what was at one time a nine-point Indiana lead to three, 84-81, with 3:38 remaining.
Alex English made a free throw to get the lead to four and then Davis scored a layup off an inbounds play to get the lead back to six.
The Pacers had the ball out of bounds under their basket and English threw a lob pass to the 6-foot-2 Davis, who jumped over Wright, caught the ball and laid it in all in one motion.
Davis went on to score eight of his team's next 10 points, including six straight from the foul line.
The Bullets were ahead, 31-28, early in the second quarter when English entered the game and scored 12 points in five minutes. Three straight fast-break baskets by the 6-7 English gave the Pacers a 42-34 lead with five minutes left in the half and they never trailed again. English finished with 21 points.
The Bullets missed 21 of 27 shots in the second quarter and scored only 17 points. They trailed, 48-41, at halftime.
They closed to within two points late in the third quarter after a baseline jumper by Phegley and a fast-break basket by Wright, but Bradley converted a three-point play on Indiana's next possession to get his team out of danger.
"Everyone is trying hard, but we just aren't getting anything done," said Wright, who scored 11 points and had four assists in his first start of the season. "We are starting to press, but that's because we want to win so badly."
Motta tried every possible guard combination last night. He started Wright and Phegley and went with deposed starters Kevin Porter and Phil Chenier in the second quarter. He then went back to Wright and Phegley and used Wright and Gus Bailey later in the game.
Porter played only eight minutes. He missed two shots and did not have an assist.Chenier played 10 minutes and was 0-4 shooting.
Elvin Hayes, who missed only the sixth game of his 12-year NBA career Wednesday in Philadelphia because of a sprained ankle, didn't start, but played 37 minutes. He made only five of 17 shots, however, and was not much of a factor at either end of the floor.
The Bullets will try again tonight when they face the New Jersey Nets at Capital Centre.