The Washington Bullets, moved further out of the playoff picture tonight when they drifted into their near-customary fade. This time, the fade came in the second quarter.
The Atlanta Hawks, who have already clinched the Central Division championship, missed 25 of their first 30 shots, spotted the Bullets at 14-point lead and then stormed back to a convincing 109-93 victory at the Omni.
The defeat was the third straight and fifth in six games for the weary Bullets. It dropped Washington to eighth place in the Eastern Conference behind Indiana. Sixth-place Houston defeated New York and pulled 2 1/2 games ahead of the Bullets, while Indiana beat New Jersey to move two percentage points ahead of Washington. The Bullets have seven games remaining, Houston six in their bid for the sixth and last playoff spot. g
The Bullets play their third game in three nights Thursday at Capital Centre against Philadelphia.
The Bullets' showing tonight was typical of the way things have been going for them lately.
They played hard, but they ran out of gas. The younger, deeper and quicker Hawks stayed calm when their shots would not fall and, once the Hawks found the basket, it was no contest.
Eddie Johnson, perhaps the best 6-foot-2 guard in the National Basketball Association, scored 29 points and had five assists to lead the Hawks. Tree Rollins had 14 points and 18 rebounds.
Elvin Hayes topped the Bullets with 25 points.
"We've got some tired people," said Bullet Coach Dick Motta. "Fatigue has really gotten us, but there's nothing we can do about it."
The Hawks used a 13-2 scoring spurt to cut the 14-point Bullet lead to three points at the half, and then caught the visitors early in the third period and steadily increased their lead.
Johnson, who had 12 points in the second period, scored 10 more in the third, hitting long jumpers and using his quickness to sneak inside the Bullet defense.
"We just don't have the depth to keep up sometimes," said Greg Ballard. "Fatigue is starting to take its toll on us."
"You win with the bench, and we don't have a very productive one any more," said Hayes.
"You can't beat teams anymore with just five guys."
"Our chances of making the playoffs aren't very good now," Motta said, with only seven games remaining. "We desperately need help from a lot of other people."
Hayes, who got into foul trouble for the second straight game, said the Bullets now have to look at every game "like it was for the championship. Each game we lose gets us closer to be eliminated," he said."Now we have to sit around and hope other teams do our work for us."
The first quarter was a nightmare for both teams. They played like they had forgotten that the object of the game is to put the ball in the basket, not just throw it up somewhere close.
Nine minutes into the contest, the score was 8-8 and the Bullets had missed 11 of 14 shots while the Hawks missed 14 of 16.