All season, Coach Gene Shue has stressed that a patient, deliberate offense is the Bullets' best avenue to the playoffs.
Recently, however, the Bullets have shown that they can be successful when they open up their attack and run. With John Lucas penetrating and Kevin Grevey on target from outside, the Bullets are showing a new dimension, a refreshing departure from their grind-it-out, get-the-ball-inside concept of the first half of the season.
Opening up their offense, the Bullets have played well enough to win their last five games. They lost two, a double-overtime decision to New Jersey at Capital Centre and Friday night's 127-126 loss at Denver. But they still are on the upbeat as they come home for games Tuesday with Phoenix and Friday with Indiana.
Shue said that Saturday night's 127-113 triumph at Utah was one of the team's best all-around performances of the season.
"Everybody played well and that's unusual for us," he said yesterday during the long trip home. "We got scoring from a lot of different people and Lucas did an excellent job of running the offense."
Lucas' ability to push the ball down court quickly, penetrate and pass off to the open man has been the main reason the team's scoring has increased since the All-Star Game break.
"Luke is doing a good job of getting me the ball when I'm open," said Grevey, who scored 23 points at Denver and matched a season's high of 26 against the Jazz. "Luke and I go blending in like I did with Kevin Porter last year. I think we're both more effective when we run. It seems to open things up and free me for better shots."
Grevey made six of his first seven shots against Utah. He had 16 points in the first half when the Bullets built a lead they never lost. The Jazz tied it once at 66, but the Bullets scored 13 of the game's next 14 points and took a 10-point advantage into the fourth quarter.
"I was getting open and after I hit my first two, I started looking for my shots more," Grevey said. "It was the same thing at Denver. I don't know why, but we seem to be getting out of the gate faster than we used to."
Lucas seems to be the reason for the revved-up offense early in the game. The former Maryland all-America usually shares the playmaking chores with rookie Frank Johnson, playing primarily in the first and third quarters. On this trip, however, his playing time was increased because of his effectiveness in getting everyone involved in the offense.
"Coach seems to let us run more early in the games," Lucas said. "If we can get out to a good lead it makes things easier. Otherwise we have to pull up and be more patient."
Lucas, who was signed by Utah before Golden State matched the offer and traded him to the Bullets, enjoyed one of his best all-around games against the Jazz. He scored 19 points and had a season-high 15 assists. At Denver, he had 17 points and 12 assists.
"It really helps my confidence to get more playing time and be allowed to run," he said. "That's always been my game and I think I'm more effective playing that way."
Another reason for the increased point production has been the consistent scoring of Spencer Haywood. The veteran forward scored 21 points against the Jazz, his fifth straight game of 20 points or more.
"We've got a lot more balance now," Shue said. "We're getting points from Spencer and that keeps teams from overplaying Greg (Ballard). We had three guys with more than 20 points against the Jazz and (Jeff) Ruland (and Lucas) with 19.
"We're playing very well on the road," Shue said, referring to the team's 15-14 record. "Now if we can just get something started at home."