There is little similarity in the styles of Greg Ballard and Charles Davis. Ballard is controlled and methodical, Davis creative and explosive. Ballard was on the bench with back spasms yesterday, giving Davis a chance to put his ability on display. He did it in grand fashion.
With Davis leading the way with a career-high 33 points, the Bullets, playing at an uncharacteristic uptempo, raced by the Indiana Pacers, 120-101, at Capital Centre.
Davis made 15 of 22 shots from the field and also had a career-high 11 rebounds and three blocked shots. The Bullets (34-36) won their fifth in a row and moved within two games of the Atlanta Hawks (37-35) in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks, who have lost three in a row, were idle yesterday. They have 10 games remaining, the Bullets 12. They have one game left with each other, April 9 at Capital Centre.
"We're in a good groove and, surprisingly, only two games down, one in the loss column," said Washington Coach Gene Shue. "We just have to keep winning and build momentum."
Atlanta has already clinched the season series with the Bullets, so if they tie, the Hawks will get the playoff berth.
"Atlanta is going to fold," said Jeff Ruland, who had one of his finest games of the season with 27 points (12-for-17 shooting), 14 rebounds, seven assists, four steals and three blocked shots.
"The pressure is on Atlanta, not us," said Davis. "We have a lot to lose, but we're relaxed, going out to try to win every game."
In his first start in two weeks, Davis was virtually unstoppable, scoring on long jumpers, smooth drives, fast-break layups and tapins.
"I like to create things," said Davis, "and Indiana wasn't getting back on defense, which let us get a lot of easy baskets."
The Bullets scored the first seven points and were never really threatened by the Pacers, who have almost as much incentive to lose as the Bullets do to win. The Pacers are in contention for the worst record in the conference, which might give them a shot at drafting Ralph Sampson and conceivably save that troubled franchise.
With Davis scoring eight points, the Bullets used a 10-2 run to take a 58-39 lead with 2:08 left in the first half. Davis scored on two 18-footers, a dunk after an offensive rebound and two free throws. He scored 20 points in the first half, 12 in the second period.
The Pacers rallied, however, and scored the final seven points of the half to reduce the Bullets' advantage to nine.
Washington opened the third period with a 7-1 run--four of the points by Ruland and the other three by Davis--to push the lead to 15.
Indiana had one more surge left and it came near the end of the quarter, when an 8-0 spurt closed the margin to 81-74 with 2:22 left. But the Bullets responded with six straight points, four by Ruland and two by Davis, to quiet the visitors.
With Davis working in the open court, Ruland set up inside and muscled in his points. He has displayed a deft touch for passing, averaging 5.3 assists the last seven games.
"It's just that they're finally catching my passes," said Ruland. "That and the fact that so many people are cutting down the middle now and getting open when I get double-teamed."
The Bullets shot 53 percent and outrebounded the Pacers, 55-42. Rick Mahorn had 15 rebounds and four blocked shots.
"I was embarrassed at the way we played," said Indiana Coach Jack McKinney.
"We were doing a great job of getting the ball down low," countered Shue, "and when they fronted us, we threw the ball over the top and got a lot of easy baskets. We are really playing great and Charles just had a fantastic game."