The Washington Bullets had hoped to begin their critical six-game road trip here Tuesday night with a bang. Instead, they drew a blank.
With point guard Frank Johnson unable to play because of a jammed toe, the Bullets were slow, sluggish and out of synch. They weren't much of a match for the young and aggressive Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors got 26 points from Joe Barry Carroll, 21 from Lewis Lloyd and a big defensive game from rookie Lester (the Molester) Conner in defeating the Bullets, 111-93, at Oakland Coliseum-Arena.
Going into the game, the Bullets had won four in a row and six of their last seven, all at Capital Centre, and were trying to make it to .500 for the first time since Jan. 12. Instead, they dropped to 24-26 and looked more like the team that had lost nine a row a while back instead of the one that was turning itself around. It was Washington's ninth straight loss on the road.
"The All-Star Game break didn't help us at all," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue. "We were playing so well and the break just killed our momentum. I was afraid of that. We tried to keep the momentum going, but we lost it somehow. This certainly isn't the way we wanted to start this trip."
Greg Ballard, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, said he didn't want to sound like he was making excuses, but that the layoff did have an effect on the team.
"It takes time for us to get into a groove," he said. "We were in one before the break, but we aren't now, and it might take us time to get it back. That's just the kind of team we have."
Shue said he will put the Bullets through two hard days of practice before Friday night's game in Seattle against the SuperSonics.
Johnson, who came off the injured list a month ago after a chipped elbow, hurt his right foot in the last game before the all-star break. He didn't practice Monday but suited up and warmed up Tuesday night. However, his foot hurt so badly that it was decided not to play him.
"(Trainer) John (Lally) made a pad for my foot to give it a cushion and some support, but I still couldn't do the things I wanted during warmups," said Johnson. "I'll rest it the next two days and, hopefully, I'll be able to play in Seattle."
Shue moved Ricky Sobers to point guard and started Don Collins at shooting guard against the Warriors. Kevin Grevey, who hadn't played in the previous four games, was the third guard.
The Bullets have been successful by using a three-guard rotation of Sobers, Johnson and Collins, but, with Johnson out, Shue was left scrambling. The only other person capable of playing point guard is rookie Bryan Warrick, who Shue has been reluctant to use lately. He played Sobers the entire first half before resting him late in the third period.
"Having to play Ricky at the point really hurt us," said Shue. "He's our best shooting guard and certain plays we want to run work best when he's playing that spot. Not having Frank hurt us there. It threw off our rotation and we had trouble getting the right combinations of players in the game."
Spencer Haywood had an off game and Rick Mahorn got into early foul trouble trying to contain the 7-foot Carroll, so Shue went with two small forwards much of the game, shuttling Ballard, Charles Davis and Carlos Terry.
Davis made seven of 12 shots and scored 15 points.
The Bullets led only twice, at 2-0 and 4-3, although they trailed by only a point at the end of the first quarter.