The Washington Bullets played as if they had never met each other tonight, turning over the ball 17 times in the first half and losing to the Atlanta Hawks, 100-95, in their NBA exhibition season opener at the Omni.
"It's not unusual to start the preseason like that," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue. "I don't know what it is, but there is something about first games, no matter how hard you try. We did pretty well in the second half, at least we executed better and got back on defense."
Shue and Atlanta Coach Kevin Loughery played their teams in units tonight, and Shue said the unit he used for the entire fourth period -- Frank Johnson and Garry Witts at guard, Jeff Ruland at center and Carlos Terry and Charles Davis at forward -- played very well. "They played together and they ran the plays."
Davis played 29 minutes and led the Bullets with 16 points. Ruland played 27 minutes and had 14 rebounds and 10 points, but made only three of 14 shots and committed eight turnovers. Rick Mahorn had 15 points, nine in the first quarter.
The Bullets trailed by 15 points early in the third period, but closed within 94-92 on a base line jump shot by Terry with 90 seconds left.
Atlanta rookie Joe Kopicki made one free throw after being fouled by Witts and, after Davis missed a jump shot, Rory Sparrow scored on a driving layup to give the Hawks a 97-92 lead. They held on for the victory, their second in two exhibition games.
The Hawks pressed and trapped on defense and ran on offense. The Bullets had trouble getting back on defense early and Atlanta built its lead with easy baskets.
The man they call the human highlight film, rookie Dominique Wilkins of Georgia, did nothing to disappoint the 8,161 home town fans in his first game at the Omni. The 6-foot-7 small forward the Hawks acquired from Utah for John Drew, Freeman Williams and $1.5 million, was spectacular.
He scored 10 points in the first quarter and eight more in the third to equal teammate Mike Glenn's 18 points.
They scored their points in completely different fashions. Glenn made eight of nine shots, all on jump shots of 16 feet or more. Wilkins got his from in close.
His first basket was a flying dunk on a fast break. Before the first period ended he also scored on a twisting, 360-degree, spinning shot over Davis and made a couple of turnaround jump shots.
In the third period he scored on a fast break by dunking the ball with his shoulders above the rim.
At least one Bullet got in on the dunking act, too. Don Collins drove the middle at the end of the third period and dunked over George Johnson, Tom McMillen and Wilkins.
The Hawks outscored the Bullets, 14-3, at the outset of the second period, to take a 36-23 lead and the Bullets were never able to recover. Glenn, working mainly against Billy Ray Bates, had eight of those points.
The Hawks' Wayne (Tree) Rollins blocked seven shots.
The Bullets' next exhibition game is Thursday at Madison Square Garden against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first game of a doubleheader.