To get a handle on the state of the Washington Bullets, look no further than the Beef Brothers.
While Jeff Ruland has been playing better than ever, Rick Mahorn is struggling through one of the worst slumps of his career.
No one has been able to stop Ruland lately. He has scored 31, 31 and 37 points in the last three games. But no one has had to worry about stopping Mahorn. He's done that himself.
Mahorn has scored only 20 points in the last five games, a major reason the Bullets have lost four of five on this six-game trip that concludes Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets (WDCA-TV-20 at 9:35).
"I'm very concerned about Rick's play lately," said Coach Gene Shue. "It's important to us for him to get involved in the offense. With Jeff scoring inside, we have to have a big man scoring outside. Rick has to supply us some offense.
"The way things are going, both Jeff and Rick have to do the job. Jeff has been, but Rick . . . I just hope he hasn't lost his confidence."
Mahorn, who has made only nine of 29 shots in the last five games, went scoreless, missing his only shot, in the last game, at Kansas City Wednesday.
"I've never been in a slump like this before," he said. "I don't know what's wrong. I just have to do other things to help until my shot comes back.
"I haven't lost my confidence, or anything like that. I realize I have to score more, though, but I don't feel any pressure. My shot will come back."
Ruland, who has averaged 33 points and 13 rebounds since becoming a starter three games ago, looked at Mahorn and said, "My advice is to just shoot it. When you get the ball go up with it."
Unfortunately for the Bullets, Mahorn isn't rebounding, either. He's had only 26 in the last five games, and only one was on offense.
Because of Spencer Haywood's season-long scoring slump, Shue said he has talked with Mahorn about the need for him to score more. In games in which Mahorn has scored 15 or more points, the Bullets are 8-3. In games in which he has scored 20 or more, they are 4-0.
If Haywood weren't having such a bad season, Mahorn's lack of offense wouldn't be so noticeable. Haywood hasn't had a field goal in the last three games and has made only four of 18 shots on this trip.
"Spencer has been having his troubles all season," said Shue. "That's one reason we need so much more from Rick."
Haywood played only four minutes in Kansas City and Mahorn 22, as Shue decided to give Dave Batton a chance. Batton responded with seven points, three assists and two rebounds in 24 minutes, the most he has played since Jan. 8 when he played 32 as a starter replacing Haywood.
The running, shooting Nuggets are first in the NBA in offense and last in defense . . . Shue said he will have Mahorn guard Alex English, the league's top scorer, Greg Ballard guard Kiki Vandeweghe and Ruland guard Dan Issel. "I'm really worried about Jeff on Issel," said Shue, "because Issel is such a clever offensive player that he will probably get Jeff into foul trouble, which will cut down on Jeff's minutes" . . . The last Bullet to score 30 or more points in three successive games was Elvin Hayes, in the 1979-80 season. He had five such games in a row. Ruland has increased his scoring average to 17.7 and his rebounds to 10.6.