Not long ago, when Greg Ballard was in a shooting slump, the Washington Bullets sank with him. As the Boston Celtics have discovered, that isn't the case now.
Ballard, the Bullets' leading scorer this season with an 18.8 average, is in a horrible slump, having made only six of 26 shots in the first two games of the playoff series with the Celtics. Yet the Bullets split the two games in Boston, and now have the home-court advantage heading into Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal at 1:05 today at Capital Centre.
"I'm not worried about Greg," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue. "Just as quickly as he went into this slump, he'll come out of it. He just has to keep shooting.
"Part of the problem is that he is playing such tough defense on Larry Bird that it is taking away from his offense, but that's what we need him to do, so he's doing it."
Boston's M.L. Carr isn't worried about Ballard, either. But he did sound wary. "The Bullets are for real," said Carr. "This is going to be a tough series. I said that when we beat them the first game and I'm still saying it. Greg Ballard is a key to them, but they've got a lot of weapons. They showed that Wednesday night." Carr was referring to the Bullets' series-tying 103-102 victory, in which Frank Johnson and Spencer Haywood scored 26 points each.
Ballard said his problem mainly has been in shooting, although "I'm getting the shots I want."
Center Rick Mahorn, who took only 14 shots in the two games and scored 14 points, said the way the series has gone so far, he and Ballard haven't had to score.
"My offense will come when it comes," said Mahorn. "My role is to play defense and clog the middle. In the past, we have needed a lot of points from Greg, but we're getting scoring from Jeff (Ruland), Frank, Spencer and D.C. (Don Collins). As long as Greg contributes the defense he has on Bird, it doesn't matter how much he scores."
As of late yesterday afternoon, about 4,500 tickets remained for today's game and Sunday's, also at 1:05 at Capital Centre. Today's game won't be televised, but Sunday's game might be shown here by CBS-TV (WDVM-9).
Because Sunday's game wasn't sold out 72 hours in advance, it is scheduled to be blacked out in the Washington area. A spokesman for the Bullets said yesterday the blackout may be lifted if the game is sold out.
After achieving his goal of winning one of the first two games in Boston, and breaking the Celtics' eight-game winning streak over his team, Shue said today's game is even more important.
"We won one game in Boston, which is great, but we still have to win four," he said. "It's a five-game series now and we have the homecourt advantage in it. We have to come out now and show them (the Celtics) that Wednesday wasn't luck or a fluke. We have to show them that we can do it again. We aren't going to do anything differently. We're just going to play as hard as we can.
"We know now that if we do the things we're supposed to do, we can compete with them, but there's no room for error. They (the Celtics) have room for error, but we don't."