All of the Washington Bullets' problems were in evidence tonight as the Philadelphia 76ers blew them out of the Spectrum, 117-101. They are slow, they can't shoot and they panic under pressure.
They had a 10-point, second-quarter lead and then, on their next five possessions, threw the ball away four times. Philadelphia scored nine straight points and never looked back.
The Bullets have lost four straight games after a season-opening victory. The three previous defeats were close. Tonight, if this had been a boxing match, it would have been stopped early in the fourth quarter.
"We played excellent until that stretch in the second quarter," Coach Shue said. "That took out a lot of our fight. We just get blown out in the second half."
The Bullets trailed by as many as 24 points in the fourth period as they dropped further into the cellar in the Atlantic Division. It was the 12th time they have lost to the 76ers in the last 14 meetings over the last three seasons.
Shue is trying to remain calm, but his team's inefficiencies are as glaring to him as they are to everyone else.
"I like to have Sunday off and so do the players, but we're going to practice tomorrow," Shue said. "The performance just isn't there. We need the work. We'll go over the facts of life with this group."
Julius Erving was more steady than spectacular tonight, leading the 76ers with 24 points. Reserve forward Steve Mix scored 14 of his 23 points in the second quarter as the 76er reserves outscored their starters, 61-56.
Elvin Hayes led the Bullets with 20 points, but made only six of 18 shots.
The Bullets were thrashed on the boards, 60-45.
They had at least been competitive in their last three games, but tonight, playing their third game in three nights, they looked worn out and overmatched.
Their only bright spot was the play of rookie Carlos Terry.
Both Bullet playmaking guards, Kevin Porter and Wes Matthews, were having their problems, so Shue went with a Terry-Kevin Grevey back court. Grevey's shooting was off, too, as he missed 11 of 13 shots, but Terry, playing for the first time this season, scored 16 points as he made six of 10 shots from the field. The free agent rookie from Winston-Salem had 12 of his points in the second period when the Bullets were trying unsuccessfully to ward off the charging 76ers.
Hayes had seven first-quarter points and the Bullets led, 23-16, going into the second period. A Grevey three-point basket put them on top, 28-18, one minute into the quarter. Then they collapsed. First, Maurice Cheeks stole a pass by Matthews to set up a fast break by Mix. Then Lionel Hollins stole the ball from Grevey and scored. Next Greg Ballard threw the ball out of bounds. Then Porter stepped out of bounds with the ball.
The 76ers tied the score at 35 on a base-line jumper by Mix with 5:50 left in the half and took the lead for good on Hollins' jumper 20 seconds later.