Maybe the Bullets don't want the home-court advantage in the playoffs. Maybe they'll do better on the road. Then again, maybe they won't even qualify.
Playing in their usual lackluster manner after returning from the road, the Bullets dozed through the first half, then didn't have enough to overcome a 35-point performance by Len (Truck) Robinson and fell to Phoenix, 103-95, before 7,331 last night at Capital Centre.
The poorly played game was further marred in the final minute when Jeff Ruland and the Suns' Alvan Adams were ejected after being assessed fouls for punching. Adams must have thrown a phantom punch; Ruland clearly won the bout with a short right to the left cheekbone that put the Phoenix center on the floor for several minutes before he walked unaided to the dressing room.
"He was elbowing me the whole game," Ruland said. "Finally I gave him a push (which sent Adams sprawling). When he got up, he came right into my face. He went to swing at me, so I hit him. I wasn't looking for a fight. I can't afford it."
Adams, holding an ice pack to his cheek and eye, said he shouldn't have gotten thrown out without throwing a punch.
"After he pushed me down, I got up and went up to him to tell him not to do it again. I might have had my hands on him, but I didn't punch him. I didn't see his punch, either."
The league will review films before taking any action. Fines for fighting generally range from $1,250 to $1,750. There is an automatic $250 fine for ejection.
Perhaps if the fight had been triggered in the first half, the Bullets might have been angry enough to take advantage of the Suns' 45 percent shooting and overcome an early 16-4 deficit.
As it was, the Bullets' wake-up call didn't come until midway through the third quarter, after they fell behind, 63-47. Kevin Grevey, scoreless for 2 1/2 quarters, started the rally with nine points, and the Bullets pulled within three, 77-74, by the end of the period.
They still were in contention, 96-91, after Rick Mahorn's layup with 2:42 remaining, but then Robinson took charge. The former Bullet forward scored the game's next five points before the fight broke out with 1:04 to play.
"They usually don't go to me at the end," said Robinson, the Suns' leading scorer with a 20.2 average. "Normally in the last two minutes they go to the guards, but tonight, well, I was getting good position."
Robinson scored the Suns' first seven points of the fourth quarter with back-to-back three-point plays after the Bullets had drawn within three. He wound up with 14 in the final period.
Unlike most NBA games, however, this one wasn't decided in the fourth quarter. If the Bullets had performed adequately in the opening period, they would have been in position to take control later.
"That was probably the worst first quarter we've played all year," said Grevey. "We were so listless. We couldn't get our outside game going, we couldn't get our inside game going. When we go bad, we all go bad."
In their 127-113 victory at Utah Saturday night, three Bullets scored more than 20 points and two others had 19. Against Phoenix, Greg Ballard (23 points) and Ruland (17) were the only ones who had more than 13.
"It's the same old story," said Coach Gene Shue. "We go and play well on the road, and then we come home and don't have anything left. It's almost like two different teams."
This was the 10th time the Bullets have come home after a road game and lost. Their record at home is 13-17, hardly playoff caliber.
"This game was so important, I would have thought we would go out and create something through aggressiveness," Shue said. "We had plenty of open shots early and the players just couldn't hit them. We dug ourselves a huge hole and never recovered."
In other NBA action, Tom Chambers and Michael Brooks combined for 67 points as the San Diego Clippers beat the San Antonio Spurs,138-127, at home; Earvin(Magic) Johnson scored 27 points as the host Los Angeles Lakers beat the Kansas City Kings,105-99; Dwight Jones' 10 points in the fourth quarter enabled the Bulls to overcome a 15 point deficit and beat the Seattle Supersonics 109-104, in Chicago; Moses Malone scored 28 poins as the Rockets increasd Milwaukee's losing streak to three by beating the Bucks 103-91, in Houston; in New York, Maurice Lucas' 21 points and 20 rebonds led the Knicks past the Utah Jazz, 126-112; in Atlanta, Don Roundfield scored 34 points and Tom McMillan 26 as the Hawks won their third straight, 120-106, over the Denver Nuggets; the Golden State Warriors beat the Pacers in Indianapolis, 92-85.