The Washington Bullets, with a two game winning streak over weak opponents, will find out where they stand tonight when they face the Milwaukee Bucks at Capital Centre.
The Bucks are one of the most talented teams in the National Basketball Association. Their 27-11 record is the fourth best in the league, but they have been struggling on the road lately, having lost six straight.
The Bullets (16-21, 13-7 at home) started the Bucks on that skid with a 98-89 victory Nov. 29. The Bucks were hampered by injuries that night, but they are healthier now. Tonight will mark the third time since Nov. 14 that all 11 players will be available.
The talent-laden Bucks will start Bob Lanier at center, Marques Johnson and Mickey Johnson at forward and Quinn Buckner and Sidney Moncrief at guard.
Moncrief, who is filling in for Brian Winters, is in the same mold as all-star forward Marques Johnson. The 6-foot-4 Moncrief has been a starter ever since Winters injured his neck Nov. 23. Winters has been used sparingly since returning last week.
Moncrief doesn't have the outside shooting eye Winters does, but he is a stronger rebounder and better defensive player.
He is averaging 12.6 points a game with 53 percent accuracy from the field and 82 percent from the foul line. He is also averaging 4.9 rebounds, three offensively, and 3.1 assists.
Coach Don Nelson said Moncrief will be a superstar in this league because he can do so many things well.
Winters has been slowly recovering from his injury and Nelson said until he is better the main man is still Marques Johnson, who leads the team in scoring (21 points a game) and rebounds (6.8) and is shooting 55 percent from the field.
After struggling most of the season, the Bullets finally have something to cheer about in newcomer Andre McCarter. He was signed to a 10-day contract Friday and after only one practice and two minutes of playing time, both Coach Gene Shue and Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff are impressed with him.
"He's smart and he gets the ball to the right people," said Bickerstaff. "He protects the basketball well, too, and everyone knows we have trouble doing that. He's going to help."
The other new Bullet, Anthony Roberts, was obtained to give the Bullets another much-needed scorer.
One of the most telling Bullet statistics involves winning close games.
The Bullets have not won the close ones because they haven't had a scorer they could rely on in crucial situations. Right now, the Bullets either go to Kevin Grevey for an outside shot or force the ball inside to Elvin Hayes. What Shue wants is someone he can just give the ball to and say, "Score."
Roberts could be that person.
Grevey made two of two three-point shots in his last game, to move into third place among the league leaders in three-point field goal percentage. He is the league leader in both three-point shots made and attempted (26-77 for 33.8 percent). . . Hayes is seventh in rebounding (10.6) and fifth in blocked shots (2.73). Center Wes Unseld is fifth in rebounding with 10.8 a game. Unseld was the only Bullet who didn't practice yesterday. He was excused to rest his sprained left ankle.