It was hardly the slump-breaker Gene Shue was looking for. If anything, last night's 94-85 victory over inept Cleveland only increased the coach's concern over the Bullets' offense.
"This wasn't exactly a great confidence-builder," Shue said after the lackluster victory before 7,231 at Capital Centre. "Hopefully, tomorrow things will get better."
The Bullets (38-37) ended a three-game losing streak and remained tied with Atlanta, a 106-104 winner over visiting New York, for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They will play at Indiana tonight (WTOP-1500, 7:35) and the Hawks visit Detroit.
"I'd like to get back to the level we were when we beat Detroit (127-98) a week ago," Shue said. "Right now I'm still concerned with our offense. This is not a good time of the year to be missing your jump shots."
The coach's chief concern is Kevin Grevey, who followed up a scoreless game Saturday night in Atlanta with a nine-point effort in which he made four of 10 shots.
To make matters worse, Greg Ballard had his poorest game of the season. The Bullets' scoring leader didn't make a shot until four minutes were left in the game and finished with two points.
"I can't ever remember winning a game when we got so little from Kevin and Greg," Shue said. "It could have been a real hard game for us if the Cavaliers had been at full strength."
Cleveland came into town with an 11-game losing streak and played without its second-leading scorer, Ron Brewer, who has the flu. Also, James Silas had back spasms and didn't play.
The Cavaliers made only 28 percent of their shots (18 of 63) in the first three quarters, which allowed the Bullets to build a 25-point lead before predictably letting down.
"You tend to get sloppy against a bad team," said Grevey, alluding to the Bullets' 17 turnovers and 46 percent shooting. "Sometimes it's good to win when you don't play well. But we've got to do better if we're going to win these two road games (Indiana and Chicago)."
On a night when the starting lineup contributed only 50 points--20 by Spencer Haywood--the Bullets got a lift from their reserves. Jeff Ruland, in particular, was outstanding, making eight of 11 shots, scoring 19 points and getting 13 rebounds.
Charles Davis scored eight points, including six in a short stretch when the Bullets increased a 55-47 advantage to 71-52 late in the third period. The rookie from Vanderbilt also had five rebounds and two assists.
"I felt real strong tonight and I was going good until I got three fouls," Ruland said. "Once I got those fouls, I had to stop going to the offensive boards. Then after we got up by 25, I guess we all let down.
"The big thing is to win these two road games," the rookie continued. "We can beat those teams if we play hard. They are there for the taking."
Ballard jokingly blamed an afternoon of pruning hedges for his poor shooting night, saying his wrist was sore. He added he couldn't remember going into the fourth quarter scoreless.
"Thank goodness we were leading by a lot," he said. "I probably lost a little concentration out there, especially after we got way ahead."
After five early ties, Grevey put the Bullets ahead to stay with a three-point play that made it 18-15. With Ruland, making his earliest appearence of the season, getting six points in the last three minutes, the Bullets took a 26-19 lead into the second period.
The Cavaliers, who have won six of 38 games on the road, made only seven of 23 shots in the second quarter but scored 11 of the last 15 points to close within 45-37 at intermission.
"I was worried at halftime, because we were shooting so poorly that Cleveland kept sagging in more and more," Ruland said. "When your outside game isn't going, you need something from underneath."
It didn't seem possible, but the Cavaliers shot even worse in the third quarter (four for 18), proving why they have the worst record in the National Basketball Association. Without playing very well, the Bullets increased their lead to 73-52.
The Cavaliers, led by Cliff Robinson's 24 points, picked up some easy baskets in garbage time, but still made only 31 of 89 shots for a .348 percentage, the lowest allowed by the Bullets this season.