The Bullets showed last night that they can win at Capital Centre as well as on the NBA road, coming from 17 points behind to finish 17 ahead, 107-90, in beating the Portland Trail Blazers before 8,555.
It was Washington's fourth straight victory, three coming on the just completed four-game road trip that began with a fifth consecutive loss. The Bullets had lost three straight on their home court, not having won there since an overtime victory over Indiana Nov. 6.
They showed the effects of the recent travel in the first half as they all but sleepwalked through most of it, trailing by 16 points in the first quarter and by 17 just before reducing the gap to 15 at halftime.
It was a different story after intermission. Don Collins, with a season-high 29 points, and Rick Mahorn with his season high of 20, led the way in overpowering the Trail Blazers. In one stretch of the half, Washington outscored the visitors, 51-21.
Timeouts, lineup changes, fouls and everything else Portland Coach Jack Ramsay tried didn't work. His team dipped below .500 level, at 8-9, while the Bullets climbed to 7-8.
"That was one of the biggest turnarounds I can remember in a long time," Bullets Coach Gene Shue said. "This was a game I was really worried about because we were coming off a long trip and a team is usually sluggish in that situation. And that's what was wrong with us in the first half. We were trying, but it just wasn't there."
A halftime talk, in which Collins said Shue "told some of us a few things we didn't want to hear about ourselves," fired up the Bullets and they took control of the game from the outset of the third period.
Mahorn, who scored only three points Friday night at Indiana, made a three-point play to open that quarter, and after Calvin Natt made a 10-footer to give Portland a 58-44 lead, the Bullets took off, outscoring the Trail Blazers, 16-4, over the next five minutes to cut it to 62-60. Collins and Greg Ballard each had six points in the spurt.
A jumper by Jim Paxson put Portland up by 70-66 with 3:30 left in the quarter, but Frank Johnson scored on a layup and Collins on a fast break. It was a beauty as Collins outsprinted two Trail Blazers to the basket -- both of whom had two-foot leads on him in the back court -- to tie the score at 70.
Natt put Portland back on top with a short jump shot with 2:09 left in the third quarter, but his team didn't score again until the fourth quarter was three minutes old. Before Darnell Valentine converted a three-point play to end the famine, the Bullets were running off 11 points, four by Jeff Ruland, to take an 81-72 lead.
A seven-point outburst by Collins in a 90-second span gave the Bullets a 20-point lead with 2:12 remaining.
"Don is very good in the open court," Shue noted, "and we were rebounding well, so we could get him the ball in those situations."
"Jeff and Rick were getting the rebounds and kicking them out to me on the fast break and we were off and running," said Collins. "I was posting up a lot, too. I like to play on the base line and I was getting the ball where I wanted it a lot."
Ruland and Mahorn each garnered 13 rebounds.
Collins had seven rebounds, five steals, three assists and a blocked shot and did a good job defensively on Paxson. The Trail Blazer guard scored 15 points in the first half on six-of-nine shooting, but he made only two of eight shots in the second half. He totaled 19 points, Natt 17.
Portland made 22 of 43 shots in the first half (51 percent) but 13 of 42 (31 percent) and only 34 points in the second half. In one stretch at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, the Trail Blazers missed 14 of 16 shots.
"We rebounded and ran well, but defense is what won it for us again," said Shue.