He claimed it was just another game, he said he wants to play well against everybody and insisted it was nothing special. But that old fire was back in John Lucas' eyes.
Obviously inspired by playing against the team that let him go, Lucas had his best all-around game as a Bullet last night with 24 points and 10 assists in a surprisingly easy 107-88 rout of Golden State.
In 34 impressive minutes, the former Maryland all-America made 10 of 15 shots and directed a fast break that accounted for 24 points as the Bullets ended their four-game losing streak before an enthusiastic crowd of 5,615 at Capital Centre.
Jeff Ruland also had his finest game as a Bullet. The 6-foot-11 rookie scored 23 points, making nine of 11 free throws. He had 11 rebounds and blocked three shots in 29 minutes of reserve duty.
The Warriors had won five in a row, but never got their game in gear after a sluggish start. They scored only one point off their fast break, made just 43 percent of their shots and were held to fewer than 100 points for the first time this season.
"You're going to hear me say this a lot when we win, but our defense was terrific," said Coach Gene Shue. "We were able to take away the strength of each of their players.
"Lloyd Free is a great offensive player, but Kevin (Grevey) played him as well as he could and Lloyd never got hot," Shue said, referring to Free's four-for-13 shooting.
"Bernard King (six points) wasn't able to play his game, either. Greg (Ballard) anticipated a lot of his moves and we played very good team defense."
Joe Barry Carroll, a 7-footer with a 20.3 scoring average, made just four of 12 shots and was held to fewer than 10 points for the first time this season. Jim Chones started on him, then Ruland filled in.
This was the eighth time the Bullets have held an opponent under 100 points and the third time they have limited a foe to fewer than 90.
Still, it was Lucas' night. He was the show, the guy who generated the applause in this easiest victory of the season.
"I guess they were told to give me the outside shot," Lucas said with a grin. "That's the word on me, you know. So I hit a couple and that opened up some other things."
If anyone knows how to stop Lucas it should be the Warriors, because he was one of them the last three years. However, the 28-year-old playmaker still has the quickness to get off his old-fashioned one-hander and his running bank shot.
"I'm getting more accustomed to the offense here," Lucas said when asked if he had any special incentive against the team that let him go before last season ended.
"I have the utmost respect for (Coach) Al Attles and I just try not to think about last year. I wanted to play well tonight, but I want to play well against everybody."
Lucas went on his first spree late in the opening quarter. He made a driving layup, then penetrated again, was fouled and sank both free throws. Just 25 seconds later, he banked in a running one-hander and made another bank shot in the closing seconds to give the Bullets a 27-16 lead at the end of the period.
With Ruland coming off the bench to get 11 points in the second quarter, the Bullets had increased their lead to 53-42 by intermission, then broke the game open midway through the third period with 11 straight points. Six were scored by Rick Mahorn, who finished with 15 and 15 rebounds.
With nine minutes to play, the Bullets had built their advantage to 95-69. Then, obviously novices at holding a lead as large as that, they were outscored, 15-4, before settling down to their fourth victory.