The Washington Bullets had everything working last night, beating the slumping Seattle SuperSonics, 99-86, with one of their most balanced efforts this NBA season.
Greg Ballard had 34 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Jeff Ruland had 18 points and 17 rebounds. And newcomer Ricky Sobers made himself an instant Capital Centre hero with an 18-point, five-assist night as the Bullets won their second game in three after losing nine in a row. Their next six are at home.
Two Washington starters, Spencer Haywood and Charles Davis, went scoreless, but there were plenty of productive teammates to make up for it.
Haywood, bothered by a fever the past couple of days, played only six minutes. Coach Gene Shue was not pleased with Davis' defense on Phil Smith, who scored six points in the game's first four minutes, so he replaced Davis with Sobers. Davis never returned.
Shue said that because Sobers has come along so quickly since the Bullets signed him as a free agent Monday, Davis will be moved back to small forward after five starts at shooting guard.
Sobers is the likely starter alongside Frank Johnson tonight at 7:30 when the Bullets play the Phoenix Suns, Shue said.
The Bullets shot 51 percent from the field and held the Sonics to 40 percent shooting and their lowest scoring game of the season.
"This was a game we needed and we went out and got it," said Sobers, whose outside shooting kept the Sonics at bay all night.
"He (Sobers) really gave us a strong game," said Shue. "He hit the shots at the right times. We had a very good blend because we got a good inside game and we also hit the outside shots."
The Sonics, who started the season by winning their first 12 games, have lost 12 of their last 14 and are sinking fast. They were led by Lonnie Shelton's 18 points. Gus Williams, who went into the game averaging 19, made only four of 16 shots and scored 11 points.
Seattle committed 23 turnovers, which the Bullets converted into 31 points.
The score was tied four times and the lead changed sides three times in the first quarter before a three-point play by Rick Mahorn and a 17-footer by Ballard gave the Bullets a 21-19 lead.
The only time the Sonics led after that was early in the second quarter. The Bullets went into the period ahead, 25-21, largely on the strength of 10 first-quarter points from Ballard and seven from Mahorn.
Seattle opened the next period with six straight points on two free throws by Shelton and baskets by Mark Radford and David Thompson, his only two points of the game, to lead, 27-25.
The Bullets responded with a 7-0 run, six of the points by Mahorn, four of them on two 17-foot jump shots. "Yes, that's in my range," he said.
Washington was on top, 42-35, then scored six points in the last 84 seconds of the half to expand the lead to 48-35.
Ruland started the push with a layup and Johnson, who ended with 13 points, nine assists and three steals, stole Greg Kelser's pass and fed Sobers for a fast-break layup.
On Seattle's next possession, Mahorn batted away Smith's pass and Sobers got another fast-break goal.
The Bullets led by as many as 16 points early in the final period, as Ballard continued to work over Danny Vranes and Kelser.