The Bullets came crashing back to reality tonight when the Boston Celtics put the defensive clamps on them, ending Washington's four-game winning streak with a 93-86 victory at Boston Garden that once again brought out the weaknesses of the team.
The Bullets have trouble scoring from outside, they tend to get careless with the basketball when they're pressured and they don't have a player who can take over and shake them up when things are going bad.
"What happened is that we played a good, smart team tonight," said Bullet center Wes Unseld. "I said before not to get too excited about our winning four straight because the competition just wasn't that good."
It was tonight.
The Celtics kept constant pressure on the Bullets, holding them to their lowest point production of the season and forcing them into committing a season-high 30 turnovers.
The Bullets made an impressive comeback after falling behind by 20 points early in the second quarter, but once they got the lead, they folded.
They finally overtook the Celtics on a fast-break basket by rookie Wes Matthews who led the Bullets with 23 points.
Matthews' basket gave Washington a 65-64 lead with 1:55 left in the third quarter. They didn't score again, however, until there was only 6:37 left in the game. They went 7 minutes 18 seconds without scoring.
The Celtics, meanwhile, were rattling off 15 straight points to go back on top, 79-65.
The Boston defense was so good in the first six minutes of the final period that the Bullets got only two shots in that span and turned the ball over seven times.
After Matthews put the Bullets on top, Robert Parish made two free throws followed by a three-point shot by Larry Bird and a Bird layup. That put Boston on top, 71-65, going into the fourth quarter.
The final period was all Boston as the Bullets could not find an open man to pass to, so usually ended up throwing the ball away, traveling with it or having the 24-second clock run out.
The final score was only as close as it was because the Bullets scored the game's last nine points.
"It was just a case of too much Celtic defense," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue. "We had been playing good offense the last four games, but it was against weaker teams. Boston pressured us, zoned us and did all sorts of things that made it tough on us.
"We're very loose with the ball and weren't delivering it to the right people at the right time."
The Celtics put heavy pressure on Matthews, which forced the other guard, Kevin Grevey, to start many of the plays. They then put heavy pressure on the forwards, making it very difficult for the Bullets to complete their plays.
"They put that pressure on us and they collapsed on our big people inside and we just couldn't get into the flow," said Grevey, who made seven turnovers. "Wes Matthews scoring on breakaways was our only offense."
Cedric Maxwell led the Celtics with 25 points and Bird and Robert Parish each had 15, as the Celtics, as usual, showed a balanced attack.
Mitch Kupchak played his best game of the season, seven rebounds, four offensive, in 23 minutes.
Elvin Hayes, who was double- and triple-teamed whenever he got the ball inside, made only four of 14 shots and scored 14 points, his lowest output in eight games.