The struggling Washington Bullets continued their fall last night as the Cleveland Cavaliers sent them tumbling to their seventh straight defeat, 97-89, before the smallest crowd at Capital Centre this season, 4,518.
This was the second time in 13 days the Bullets have lost to the lowly Cavaliers and the victory was only Cleveland's seventh against 31 defeats.
The last time the two teams played, in Richfield, Ohio, Jan. 8, Scott Wedman scored 30 points and led the Cavaliers to a 98-82 victory. Wedman has since been traded to the Boston Celtics, but the Cavaliers showed last night that they have the Bullets' number, no matter who is out on the floor.
World B. Free scored 29 points, his high as a Cavalier, and Cliff Robinson scored 22 and had a career-high 23 rebounds.
The seven-game losing streak is the Bullets' longest since they lost nine in a row in the 1971-72 season.
"We aren't getting beaten by the best teams in the league, either," said Coach Gene Shue. "We're getting beaten by the worst teams."
The Bullets looked lackadaisical, tired and lacking confidence and this was only the first of seven games in 10 nights. They will play the Milwaukee Bucks in Milwaukee tonight (WDCA-TV-20 at 9 p.m.).
Last night's game was a case of Shue seeing it slip away, but being unable to do anything about it.
The Cavaliers used an 11-2 scoring spurt--Free scored three of the points--to take a 35-26 lead with 7:30 left in the first half.
Shue called time and berated his team, yelling at them on the bench in an attempt to get them back in the game.
It worked for a while.
The Bullets fought their way back and eventually tied the score at 42 as Spencer Haywood scored two baskets and Jeff Ruland got one on a fast break.
The Bullets trailed at the half, 47-46, and after falling behind, 61-58, rallied to take a 63-61 lead with four minutes left in the third period. Greg Ballard, who led the Bullets with 18 points, made two jumpers and Rick Mahorn made a free throw during the spurt.
But Cleveland came back, outscoring the Bullets by 13-3 the remainder of the period to take a 74-66 lead into the fourth quarter. Free had seven of the points while all the Bullets could get was one basket and one free throw, both by Charles Davis.
The Bullets missed their first four shots of the fourth quarter and turned the ball over twice. Cleveland got field goals from Phil Hubbard and Free to increase its lead to 78-66.
The closest the Bullets got after that was 93-89, after a free throw by Frank Johnson with 47 seconds left. Then Cleveland scored the game's final four points, all from the foul line to drop the Bullets to 17-21.
With regular center James Edwards not suited up because of a sore knee, the Cavaliers used only eight players and played a very controlled game. They committed only eight turnovers.
The Bullets had only nine turnovers, but shot poorly. Johnson made four of 16 shots, Kevin Grevey was three for nine and Charles Davis one for seven.
Ruland went six for six from the field and had 15 rebounds and Mahorn had 14 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. But the Bullets still struggled all game long.
"Our problem is that most of our baskets are off executed plays," said Shue, "and you just can't expect to get all of your points that way.
"I'm at the point now where I'll try anything because we aren't getting the production. I tried to juggle my lineup tonight, but it didn't work. The type of team we are, if our shots don't fall, we fall apart."