The ailing, weary Washington Bullets, playing as well as they have all season despite losses in three of their last four games, will limp into McNichols Arena Tuesday night to face the high-scoring Denver Nuggets (WDCA-TV-20 at 9:35 p.m.).
The game will end the Western portion of the Bullets' seven-game road trip. They lost another heart breaker Sunday night in Phoenix, 113-107, in overtime, and also lost to Portland in overtime to begin the trip. 1
Guard Kevin Grevey had a season high 36 points against the Suns, but Phoenix guards Walter Davis and Dennis Johnson were too much for the Bulletts, scoring 32 and 27 points, respectively.
"This just isn't our year to win the close games," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue, still fuming today over the officiating of Mike Mathis and John Vanak. A questionable foul called against Kevin Porter and a borderline traveling violation against Elvin Hayes helped keep the Bullets scoreless in the final 1:41 of regulation. Phoenix scored five straight points and sent the game into overtime.
Davis scored six points in the extra period and Johnson four. Porter followed his 18-assist performance at Golden State Friday with 17 assists against Phoenix.
"We're playing terrific, but you have to win for it to mean anything," said Shue. "We would have really had momentum if we could have pulled this game out. We should have because we played well enough to win."
Shue gave the starters the day off today and they certainly needed it. Hayes has been playing on a painful hip pointer that has severely reduced season average.
Wes Unseld has averaged 15 rebounds the last four games, but he has two very bad knees and can barely walk 30 minutes after each game.
Grevey sprained his ankle in the third quarter at Phoenix and will be subpar against the Nuggets. He is expected to start, however.
Porter seems to be in the the best physical condition of the starters, but he has averaged 43 minutes a game the last nine games. Porter is averaging 12.4 assists the last 14 games.
"We're playing well, but we're still making mental mistakes," Unseld said. "We can play better. The only way we can win consistently is if everybody plays well night after night. We aren't good enough to afford the luxury of some people playing bad and still expect to win.
"Everyone's trying and working as hard as they can and that's all you can ask. If we were at home we probably would have won the last three games that we lost."
The Denver game now becomes extremely important. Before the Bullets left on the trip, most felt that two victories on the five-game Western portion of the trip would make that part of it a success. They have beaten only Golden State and lost to Portland, Seattle and Phoenix.
They return home Wednesday, but go right back on the road to Philadelphia Friday and to Detroit Saturday. Tgheir next Capital Centre game is next Tuesday against Portland.
"We've been playing good, but it takes a lot out of you," Unseld said. "I don't know how much we have left. I know I'm hurting and I'm not the only one."