It must have been spring fever. It was a bright, sunny 65 degrees here today, the kind of day when you just want to lounge around and not exert energy. The Washington Bullets did just that and stayed in the mood all night.
In one of their most lethargic performances of the season, the Bullets were outhustled, outrebounded and outshot while being blown out by the Atlanta Hawks, 107-87, before 9,759 in the Omni.
"We were really flat," said Greg Ballard, usually a main force in the offense. The Hawks shut down the Bullets' plays so well that Ballard got only nine shots.
"They (the Hawks) have been playing well and they really wanted this one because they're starting a five-game trip tomorrow," Ballard said. "We're not a running team and once we get behind we have trouble catching up."
The Bullets managed to surpass their lowest point total of the season (in a 90-84 loss to Boston Nov. 10), but, realistically, it was their worst loss of this campaign.
"They did a good job of defensing our plays," said Kevin Grevey, who was limited to four points. "When we called a play, they would call it out and just go to our spots. When that happens we've got to adjust, pick and roll, or get loose on our own.
"This is the first time I can remember a team completely taking us out of our offense. We haven't been blown out in a long time and I guess it's got to happen sooner or later. We've just got to regroup tomorrow night in Indiana."
By losing, the Bullets fell into a fifth-place tie with Atlanta, at 33-34, in the battle for six playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Now they move on to Indiana for a televised game (WDCA-TV-20, 7:30) before returning home to face fourth-place New Jersey Friday night at Capital Centre.
"I took the starters out early in the fourth quarter because they weren't playing that well anyway and I didn't want to tire them out for nothing," Coach Gene Shue said. "Atlanta played really well and our defense wasn't as good as usual."
The only thing the Bullets did well was line up straight for the national anthem. After that it was like pigeons fluttering around statues in a park.
While winning their fourth straight the Hawks grabbed almost every loose ball, controlled the rebounding, 53-43, and neutralized the Bullets' three major offensive players.
"John Drew won the game for us the way he controlled Ballard," said Dan Roundfield, who had 21 points and 14 rebounds. "John really worked on defense tonight."
With Ballard getting only 10 points and Grevey four, the Bullets needed a big game underneath from Jeff Ruland. There was no chance of that, however, as 7-foot-1 Tree Rollins hovered over the Bullets' rookie and limited him to seven points and six rebounds.
Following nine ties in the first period, the Bullets edged in front, 25-20. But Atlanta scored 14 of 16 points early in the second period to take a 40-32 lead it never lost.
Another spurt late in the third quarter boosted the Hawks' advantage to 85-68 heading into the final period. The Bullets made only eight of 23 shots in the quarter and were outrebounded, 17-9.
The Bullets had no one who could contain Eddie Johnson, who had 25 points. Whenever Rollins (five blocks) or Sam Pellom (three) blocked a shot, Johnson and Drew would turn it into a fastbreak layup.
"Eddie is playing terrific at both ends of the court," said Atlanta Coach Kevin Loughery. "We've been able to open up our offense a great deal lately and get our transition game going."