It's a good thing that the young Bullets are learning how to win on the road, because four of their next six games will be away from home.
Following the New Jersey Nets' first appearence at Capital Centre Tuesday night, the Bullets will play at Philadelphia, Cleveland and New York before returning home to face the 76ers Jan. 12. There's a trip to Detroit before they start a four-game home stand Jan. 15 against Chicago.
"I don't think the guys worry about playing on the road," said Jeff Ruland, who had 21 points and 19 rebounds in Saturday night's 107-103 victory at Indiana. "We've got so many young players, we just go out and play hard every night."
The come-from-behind victory at Indiana improved the Bullets' road record to 7-8 and was their sixth in nine games since Dec 1. The losses were by four points at Los Angeles and Milwaukee and two at Chicago.
Again the reserves were the difference. After the starters missed nine of their first 11 shots, Coach Gene Shue brought in four substitutes to join Greg Ballard and left them in for the rest of the first half.
With Ruland and Frank Johnson leading the way, the reserves scored 40 of the team's 50 points by intermission. Johnson finished with 13 points and nine assists.
"It helps when the coach has confidence in you and leaves our unit in," said Johnson, the unofficial spokesman for the subs. "We stick together and have a lot of pride. When we come in, we know what we have to do. Sometimes we can give the other team a different look and they have trouble making an adjustment."
Ruland, the Bullets' best low-post player, scored 10 points in a five-minute span when his team overcame a 27-18 deficit to tie at 35. Johnson has the ability to penetrate and also make long-range jumpers if the defenses collapse around Ruland.
Don Collins is another important contributor. He has the knack of getting out on the fast break and creating three-on-two situations.
"That second group is pretty aggressive and it's got good speed," said Shue. "It's a team that could easily start. I almost started them in the second half, but I like the feeling of having them on the bench if we need a lift." Garry Witts was the fourth reserve in.
The Bullets may not have the best starting lineup in the league. Still, they have 10 players that Shue has confidence in, and not many coaches can make that statement.