The Washington Bullets, who started this six-game road trip with such high hopes, are now struggling just to win another game.
They staged an impressive comeback Friday, and almost wiped out a 20-point deficit before being defeated by the Seattle SuperSonics, 115-112, at the Kingdome.
"Comebacks aren't much good unless you win, though," said Coach Gene Shue, "but at least it was encouraging."
The Bullets played much better than they did in a 111-93 loss to Golden State Tuesday in the first game of this trip, but the result was the same as they lost their 10th straight game on the road and dropped to 24-27.
"We just put ourselves in too big a hole," said guard Frank Johnson. "We weren't really playing until the fourth quarter. Before that, we were just running up and down the floor and not doing anything, and then when we got going, it was too late."
Johnson, who missed the Golden State game because of a jammed toe on his right foot, made seven of nine shots and had seven assists against Seattle.
"We don't want to put any added pressure on ourselves just because we lost the first two of this trip," said Johnson, thinking of Sunday's opponent, the Portland Trail Blazers.
"We're just going to go out, relax and try and play the whole game like we did the fourth quarter against Seattle," Johnson said.
Seattle has been struggling lately and the victory was only its sixth in the last 23 games. The Sonics appeared to have things wrapped up early when Gus Williams scored on a drive for a 102-82 lead with nine minutes left.
That's when the Bullets made their charge. Jeff Ruland scored 11 fourth-quarter points and Ricky Sobers 10, including two three-point shots, and the Bullets made the Sonics nervous.
Back-to-back three-point shots by Greg Ballard, who led the Bullets with 23 points, and Sobers, followed by a Ruland layup, cut Seattle's lead to 10 with 4:32 remaining.
Ruland made a hook shot and then rebounded a miss by Phil Smith, resulting in a fast-break attempt for Sobers.
Sobers was fouled by James Donaldson, going up for the shot, and made only one of two free throws, which reduced the Seattle lead to 114-109 with 62 seconds remaining.
Smith made one of two free throws nine seconds later and another three pointer by Sobers cut the lead to three. Sobers then stole the ball from Donaldson, but when he tried to take it all the way himself, he stumbled as he tried to maneuver around Lonnie Shelton and was called for a charging foul, giving possession back to the Sonics with 21 seconds left.
Seattle played keepaway the rest of the game and the Bullets couldn't catch up with the ball to foul anyone.
In the National Basketball Association, a foul away from the ball in the final two minutes results in a free throw and the offended team retains possession, as well, so there was no advantage to the Bullets to foul any Sonic who didn't have the ball.
The Bullets were outrebounded, 42-29, their worst rebounding game of the season.
Charles Davis didn't play because of neck spasms, but is expected to play at Portland. The Sonics got a scare when Jack Sikma fell over teammate Greg Kelser late in the first half and injured his right ankle. Sikma didn't return, but the Sonics said the injury wasn't serious. Sikma missed seven games with a sprained right ankle earlier in the year.