The Bullets' road trip came to an unmerciful end last night as they ran into a torrid-shooting gang of Cavaliers from Cleveland and dropped their fifth straight game, 114-91, in front of 6,216 fans at Richfield Coliseum.
Things are going bad for you when John Lambert scores a career-high 18 points against you and wins honors as star of the game. That's what happened as the 6-10 Lambert, a backup center his entire career, stepped forward to help wreck the Bullets.
Washington, its road record dipping to 8-15, was never in the game. The Cavs jumped ahead, 14-6, as the Bullets made but two of their first nine field goal attempts.
Cleveland built a 39-21 lead at the quarter, making a sizzling 16 to 24 shots from the field while the Bullets struggled along with nine of 26.
The lead reached 20 points with six minutes to go in the final three minutes gave Cleveland a 59-41 halftime lead.
Cleveland was led in scoring by second-year man Mike Mitchell, the lone Cavalier with a legtimate chance of making the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Mitchell got 25 points and was aided by Lambert's 18 and 16 by Dave Robisch and 15 by Kenny Carr. Carr was high for Cleveland with 12 rebounds.
Elvin Hayes had 22 points to lead the Bullets, whose record dropped to 20-26. Reserve guard Roger Phegley supplied 20 points and Greg Ballard 17. Wes Unseld, playing 32 minutes, was a monster on the boards grabbing a game-high 20.
Cleveland cooled off considerably after the first quarter and finished with 49-of-99 field shooting, a .495 percentage. The Bullets shot 40 to 100, and were hampered by 21 turnovers to Cleveland's 12.
The Bullets made a slight charge at the Cavs in the third quarter, in which they outscored Cleveland 29-22 to cut the deficit to 11 points.
But the Ohioans reeled off a 10-2 spurt during the next six minutes to boost the lead back to a comfortable 19 points.
"We just got off to a horrible start," Washington Coach Dick Motta commented. "We were on the verge of getting back into the game in the third quarter, but every time we got a basket they came back to get one, too. Cleveland is playing very well."
Mitchell, a 6-7 forward, drew praise from Motta, who said he included his name on his all-star ballot. Mitchell made 11 of 21 field goal attempts and three of three from the foul line.
The Bullets continued to have problems at the guard spots and Motta was blunt in his assessment.
"What have we played now, 46 games, and we still have problems at guard. We use a different combination every game. Everyone has been inconsistent and it's starting to frustrate the other players."
Not counting the 10-for-17 shoot performance by Phegley, the Bullet guards went two for 24 and missed their first 13 shots.
Said Jim Cleamons, the former Cav, who was two for nine: "It's tough to get rhythm. We're playing a little bit of everybody. We can't kill anything and nothing's dying."