It was the lately immovable defense of the Washington Bullets against the recently unstoppable offense of the Chicago Bulls tonight.
Don't ever bet against the offense in the NBA. And, as Bullet Coach Gene Shue said, "We sure have trouble scoring."
The Bulls had averaged 118.7 points in their last three games; the Bullets had allowed only 96.1 a game their last nine contests. But the Bulls overcame two Bullet rallies to win, 114-108, giving the Chicagoans a 9-12 record and three victories in their last four tries. The loss dropped the Bullets to 8-13 and was their second defeat here this season.
The bullets stayed close for most of the first half and led, 53-52, on Wes Unseld's basket about two minutes before intermission.
Then the Bulls caught fire, scoring the next six points before halftime and the first six of the third period. By the time unseld scored again, two minutes into that quarter, Chicago was ahead, 64-55.
"Right before the end of the half I thought we had control and we turned the ball over," Shue said. "Then we went very, very cold at the start of the third quarter. That was the turning point. We can come back, but we can't dig that much of a hole for ourselves."
"I looked up in the third quarter and we were down by 15 points (75-60)," Kevin Porter said. "Even when you battle back you lose steam in the forth quarter."
That's just what happened. Donw 86-68 heading into the fourth, the Bullets scored the next nine points.
Mitch Kupchak started with a dunk, followed by Kevin Grevey's two free throws, Kupchak's rebound basket and free throw and Carlos Terry's two buckets. Chicago center Artis Gilmore stopped the streak with two free throws.
The Bullets again closed, to 96-89, on Elvin Hayes' shot with 6:25 left, but the Bulls ran off the next six points.
Bulls Coach Jerry Sloan, who has his players in a running mood -- they scored an NBA season-high 45 points in the first quarter againstt New York Friday -- saw them slowed by the Bullets.
"Washington has big people and they run the clock down," Sloan said. "It's tough to run against a team like that. It's tough to get the ball out because you have to stay in and rebound against them."
The Bulls rebounded like they scored points, winning the board battle, 50-40. The 7-foot-2 Gilmore had 15 rebounds, tying Hays for game honors. Gilmore also scored 21 points for the Bulls. Larry Kenon was high for the game with 26, while David Greenwood had 20 and Reggie Theus 18. The Bulls shot 51 percent.
The Bullets shot 46 percent and had trouble getting Hayes the ball. When they did, he made only five of 18 shots. His 10 points were matched by Greg Ballard, Unseld and Wesley Matthews. Grevey led Washington with 19, while Kupchak and Porter had 15 each.
Hayes played 36 minutes, having to sit out much of the third quarter with four fouls.
"'E' gets no respect anymore. Me either," Grevey said. "But you can't pout about that."
The Bullets lost here, 104-96, earlier this season and Porter said the Bulls "have improved 100 percent" since then. "Like night and day," he said. b
"They've got good depth," Grevey said. "That's what you need in the NBA. They have the ability to have a very good team."
And, as Shue said, "We're having trouble matching up against anyone." The defense is there "but we sure have trouble scoring."