The Milwaukee Bucks showed the Bullets last night that they are in a different league.
The overmatched Bullets looked lost and bewildered as Marques Johnson, Quinn Buckner, Sidney Moncrief & Co., ran circles around them en route to a 115-94 victory at Capital Centre.
The Bullets had won two in a row over weak opposition but were welcomed to the real world of the NBA by the Bucks.
Bullet Coach Gene Shue was the first to say what a mismatch it was.
"We got beat by a team that is just better. What you saw tonight was the Milwaukee Bucks playing great whithout any doubt. they played hard and made our players look a step behind. They were extemely aagreesive and killed us off the offensive boards.
"This is a game we could have played forever and still be behind by 15 points. We never would have caught up."
Milwaukee outrebounded Washington, 57-37. Greg Ballard had only one and Elvin Hayes five as the Bucks did what they pleased, inside and outside.
Marques Johnson was high scorer with 32 points in 36 minutes. Quinn Buckner had 16 and Bob Lanier 14.
He Bucks kept shuttling in fresh talent to handle the ball, rebound, pass and shoot. When the Bullets went to their bench, it spelled trouble.
The Bucks seemed to play a lot harder than the home team did, too.
"This was a big game for us," said Moncrief. "We had to have it."
The Bucks came into the game with the fourth best record in the league, but they had lost six straight on the road, beginning with a 98-89 defeat here Nov. 29.
"We reevaluated ourselves the last couple of days and realized that we weren't playing hard on defense." Moncrief said. "We did tonight. We played good fundamental defense and we were patient on offense."
The Bucks are a prototype of a team of the future in the NBA. They have a big center (Bob Lanier); a strong point guard (Buckner) and most of their other players -- Montcrief, Marques, Johnson, Mickey Johnson, Junior Bridgeman and Brian Winters -- are solid basketball players, not stifled by being stuck in a set position.
"Teams really have to make a lot of adjustments when they play us because our guards rebound, our forwards pass and we all get up and down the floor fast," Moncrief said.
The Bullets never adjusted but were in the game for awhile. Kevin Porter sparked them on a 10-0 first-quarter scoring spurt and they came from a 12-8 deficit to an 18-12 lead. Porter had a field goal and three assists in the spurt. He finished the quarter with eight assists, but also had three fouls and Shue was forced to sit him down.
The first quarter was a Marques Johnson show. He made his first five shots and had 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists as the Bucks led, 34-31.
Johnson scored most of his points on a 10-foot jump shot in the lane that no one could stop. He later expanded his repertoire to include a running left-handed hook, some baseline jump shots and some devastating drives down the lane.
When it became obvious that Greg Ballard couldn't contain Johnson, Shue tried other people without success.
With Porter on the bench in the second quarter, the Bullet offense sputtered a little and died.
Wes Matthews had turnover problems and newcomer Andre McCarter had the jitters. McCarter committe three fouls, a turnover and a shot an air ball from 10 feet in less than 90 seconds.
The Bullets went into the second period down, 34-31, then missed nine of their first 10 shots and fell behind by 11.
Matthews scored on a drive and a free throw and Wes Unseld scored on a layup to get the Bullets to within six with five minutes left in the half. They got the ball 12 more times the rest of the quarter but scored only four points as they turned the ball over eight times.
The Bucks finished the half with a 13-4 scoring spurt to take a 61-46 lead.
The Bullets weren't in the game in the second half.
When the Bucks needed a lift, they got one from one of their seemingly endless suply of reserves. The most effective of them could have been Harvey Catchings. He had six rebounds and three blocked shots and two field goals in an eight-minute span late in the first quarter and early in the second.
"I've said it before," Shue said. "Harvey Catchings is a key player for them. He does the things that makes teams win. He gets back on defense, blocks shots and rebounds."