Now that the Bullets have made it to .500, they want more. The talk now around Capital Centre is playoffs, and the way the Bullets have been playing the past two months, these are not wild dreams.
A 106-95 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics Wednesday night at Capital Centre improved Washington to 19-19; it is the first time the Bullets have been at .500 since they were 1-1 in 1980. They hope to get over .500 tonight when they are at home against the Portland Trail Blazers at 8:05.
The Bullets have the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference; the top six teams make it to the playoffs.
"This is something that early in the year we didn't think about because we were struggling so," said Coach Gene Shue. "We've accomplished a great deal to get to .500. I think it's terrific and I just hope we can move on."
It has been an uphill fight for the Bullets to reach .500. They lost seven of their first 11 and that was looked upon as a good start, considering their inexperience.
Since Dec. 2, however, they have won 15 of 23, giving them the fifth-best record in the NBA over that stretch. Only Seattle, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Boston have done better the past two months. The Bullets also have won four in a row and six of their last seven.
"Confidence has a lot to do with why we're winning," said Greg Ballard, the team's leading scorer. "Earlier in the year we didn't have that confidence. We just didn't know what each other could do.
"We have a feeling for each other now and we're winning by doing the little things, not the spectacular things. That's why we've been so consistent lately. We're making that extra pass, getting that extra loose ball, keeping the ball alive just long enough for someone to get it. These things have become automatic with us now and we know that's what we have to do to win."
All of this winning has caused Shue to address another problem he never anticipated when the season started: overconfidence.
"We can't . . . think all we have to do is walk out on the floor," he said. "We can still get killed by talent, believe me. We always have to play a good team game to beat people."
The Bullets have been winning with defense all season, yielding an average of only 88 points per game the last three.
Management is using defense as a promotional gimmick. If the Bullets hold Portland to fewer than 100 points tonight, all fans in attendance will get a free ticket to any one of the next three Bullet home games: Chicago, Jan. 26; New York, Jan. 28, or Cleveland, Feb. 2.
That might not be an easy task, though, because the Trail Blazers are averaging 110 points a game and have scored 100 or more in all but three of their 38 games.
Portland will be without Kermit Washington, the former American University star, who was sent back to Portland yesterday because of back trouble.
The Trail Blazers are led by center Mychal Thompson, averaging 20.9 points and 11.3 rebounds a game. Guard Jim Paxson is averaging 18 points.