The Washington Bullets reached what two months ago looked like an impossible height when they beat the Seattle SuperSonics, 106-95, last night at Capital Centre. The victory, the Bullets' fourth in a row, made them a .500 team, at 19-19, for the first time since they were 1-1 in 1980.
It also was the team's first game since guard John Lucas informed the public that he had a problem with cocaine. Before tip-off, Lucas said his biggest fear was that the fans might turn on him.
"I don't know what I'll do if they boo me," he said.
There were no boos, only cheers and yells of "Let's go Luke" when he entered the game with 11:05 left in the first quarter. He promptly stole the ball from Seattle's James Donaldson and fed Don Collins for a fast break layup.
Lucas did not play after the second quarter. He had six assists and scored two points, but displayed his usual exuberance both on the bench and on the floor.
"The way the crowd greeted me really relaxed me," he said. "The main thing, though, is that we're a .500 team again. I told you we'd get there. My next prediction is we'll make the playoffs. All of this just shows that you can't do anything to break up a family."
The San Diego Chicken provided the crowd of 9,317 with the laughs and the Bullets entertained with a dominating performance against the hottest team in the National Basketball Association. The Sonics came to Capital Centre with the third-best record in the league, having won eight in a row and 23 of their last 29.
The Bullets jumped on them early, getting 15 points from Kevin Grevey the first quarter, then beat back every challenge the Sonics mounted.
Greg Ballard was the game's high scorer with 29 points. Grevey had 19. Gus Williams and Jack Sikma each had 21 each for Seattle, but the Sonics shot only 38 percent.
"It was our team defense that did it," said Coach Gene Shue, "but I want to single out Rick Mahorn. He was getting back on defense, giving Frank Johnson help on Gus, and he shut down the whole middle."
Williams, playing with a sprained right ankle that forced him to miss Tuesday night's game against Cleveland, took only six shots in the last three quarters. Mahorn finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots. Sikma had 18 rebounds.
The Bullets led by four at the end of the first half, then with Ballard having the hot hand increased their lead to 82-70 going into the final quarter. Ballard made six of seven shots in the third period, five from at least 18 feet. The Bullets were running set plays for him and he continually got off open shots over Lonnie Shelton.
The Bullets led by 14 midway through the last quarter when the Sonics made a run, closing to 88-80 on two free throws by Sikma.
Jeff Ruland made one free throw on the Bullets' next possession, then Grevey stole the ball from Fred Brown, which resulted in a three-point play by Collins and a 92-80 lead. The Sonics were never recovered. The Bullets led by as many 20 points later in the quarter.
As evidence of their team play, the Bullets had 29 assists, 13 by Johnson, while the Sonics had 14.