Bill Walton's first meeting with the Beef Brothers was one he says he will remember for a long time.
Walton played for only the third time this season Saturday night against the Bullets, scoring 15 points and totaling 12 rebounds and seven blocked shots, but Washington overcame another dreadful start and near-disastrous finish to beat the Clippers, 95-87, and end their five-game losing streak.
"I see why people call them the Beef Brothers," Walton said, referring to the Bullets' Jeff Ruland and Rick Mahorn. "They didn't do much backing up and they sure like to mix it up."
Ruland had what Coach Gene Shue called an incredible game, scoring 25 points and getting 17 rebounds before fouling out with 2 minutes 11 seconds remaining and the Bullets ahead by 10 points. Mahorn scored only six points, but had a season-high 14 rebounds and muscled Walton around whenever he pleased. At one point, he floored him with a crunching pick that left Walton looking over hs shoulder the rest of the night.
Ruland went right at Walton whenever the Clippers center had the ball. Ruland was dominating in the third period, when he scored 13 of his points and grabbed eight of his rebounds.
The Bullets, who missed their first 10 shots and didn't score until the game was almost five minutes old and they were behind, 8-0, came back with a 12-0 run later in the period and then outscored the Clippers, 32-18, in the third period to take a 21-point lead.
They almost let it slip away, however, as in one five-minute span of the final quarter the Clippers scored 15 straight points, the last seven by rookie Terry Cummings, to cut the Bullets' lead to eight.
But the closest the Clippers came after that was 91-86 on two free throws by Tom Chambers with 1:22 remaining. But the Bullets responded with a free throw by Charles Davis, a fast-break basket by Don Collins and a free throw by Frank Johnson to seal the victory, their first since they beat Indiana in overtime at Capital Centre Nov. 6.
"The monkey is off our backs," said Greg Ballard. "We just went out and played hard and let the chips fall wherever they fell. We just told ourselves that if we win or lose, it's going to be playing hard, and as long as we did play hard, we could live with the results."
"There aren't that many things we can do differently than we have been," said Ruland. "Everyone just has to play hard and go after every loose ball and every rebound."
Ruland said he was impressed by Walton, "but he isn't the player I used to watch on television yet. He's got to play more than once a week to get it all back."
The Clippers shot only 38 percent, the first time this season the Bullets have held an opponent below 40 percent. "The defense was outstanding," said Shue. "The offense was about what we could expect."
The victory leaves the Bullets with a 4-8 record with two games left on a four-game trip. They will play at Phoenix Wednesday and at Indiana Friday before returning to Capital Centre to play Portland Saturday.
During the losing streak, Shue tried a number of things, using different combinations of players and different substitution patterns. Against San Diego, he got big games from Davis and Collins.
Davis scored a season-high 17 points. He made four straight 18-foot jumpers in the second period when the Bullets were holding a slim lead. Collins equaled his season high with 14 points and had a season-high six assists.
"Our philosophy is that we're a strong defensive team and offensively we're just going to grind it out and hope we have enough left at the end," said Shue. "I told the players (Saturday) that if anyone gets hot, we'll go to him every time. That's what we need, someone to get hot."
The man Saturday was Davis. He put up 18 shots in 25 minutes.
"It was dropping for me and so they kept giving it to me," said Davis. "One difference, I think, between the way we played tonight and the way we had been playing is that we were loose and relaxed; it was a totally different atmosphere."