He doesn't sing much better than he plays tennis, but Coach Gene Shue made his point perfectly clear when he came out of the Bullets' dressing room humming "What a Difference a Day Makes."
In a complete reversal of their listless performance in Atlanta the night before, the Bullets played aggressively on defense, executed their offense crisply and turned back Indiana, 114-106, tonight before 5,107 at Market Square Arena.
With John Lucas directing the attack--dishing out a season-high 17 assists--the Bullets connected on 54 percent of their shots and received a combined 55 points from their starting forwards.
Greg Ballard, bouncing back from a sleep-walking 10-point effort in Tuesday night's 107-87 loss at Atlanta, paced the scoring with 30 points. Spencer Haywood ignited the offense with 10 points in the first seven minutes and wound up with 25.
Kevin Grevey, who had only four points in Atlanta, scored 10 of his 14 in the second quarter when the Bullets outscored Indiana, 31-14, to take 59-45 halftime lead they never lost.
The only discouraging thing about what Shue called "a big, big, victory" was that New Jersey rallied to win at Philadelphia and stay in third place, a half-game ahead of the Bullets. The Nets (35-34) will invade Capital Centre Friday night.
"We just had to pick up the pace," Lucas said, referring to the second quarter when he changed the tempo by pushing the ball up quickly, penetrating and freeing Ballard and Grevey for open jumpers.
"When you see that Greg only got nine shots and Grevey seven in Atlanta, you know we're not running the offense right," the veteran playmaker said. "We shoot well from the outside, but we've got to get the ball up quickly and get our shooters open."
Haywood got the Bullets started by moving behind screens and sinking five medium-range jumpers in a four-minute span early in the opening period. Then Ballard got involved and scored seven points in the final three minutes.
Still, Indiana was leading, 27-24, until Lucas replaced Frank Johnson as the playmaker. With Lucas quickly picking up the pace, the Bullets took the lead, 38-37, on Grevey's layup and never lost it, building their advantage to 14 points by intermission.
"We might have been the same team physically, but not mentally," said Ballard, who sank 12 of 20 shots, including a three-pointer. "We were much more into the game tonight than we were in Atlanta.
"We played aggressive, solid defense and when you're active at one end, it makes you more forceful at the other," the five-year veteran continued. "Our offense worked much better tonight because we had better movement.
"Lucas got us moving by pushing the ball up quickly. He always picks up the pace and, when we get the ball down quicker, the defense doesn't have as much chance to set up and stop our plays."
Indiana came back in the third quarter, reducing a 16-point deficit to seven several times, the last at 80-73 with 42 seconds left in the period. Johnny Davis led the charge with 13 of his 25 points in the quarter.
Butch Carter, playing in place of Don Buse, scored seven points early in the fourth period and the Pacers pulled within six, 97-91, on a three-point play by Tom Owens with 6:11 to play.
After Jeff Ruland (12 points) made a free throw, Ballard followed with a pair of jumpers and the Bullets were back in command as they evened their record at 34-34.
"It was significant that they never could get the basket to get momentum," Shue said. "Whenever they made a run, we were able to counter with something."
Shue received one bit of bad news when Jim Chones tried to warm up before the game, then said that his foot was too sore. He said later he thinks his fifth metatarsal bone on his left foot is broken. He said X-rays will be taken Thursday in Washington.