Not foul trouble or even another injury to a key player, this time Charles Davis, could slow down the Washington Bullets last night as they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 94-81, at Capital Centre for their sixth straight victory.
They failed to gain on Atlanta, however, as the Hawks beat Cleveland, 95-82, to remain two games ahead of the Bullets in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bullets (35-36) play at New Jersey tonight (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:30), while the Hawks (38-35) play at Philadelphia.
"I hope Atlanta is starting to feel the pressure," said Bullets guard Frank Johnson, "because we're coming after them."
Johnson had one of his best all-around games of the season as he scored 24 points and had 11 assists, two steals and only two turnovers in 46 minutes.
This was the second straight game the Bullets played without starting small forward Greg Ballard, who has a sore back, and they got a major scare when his backup, Davis, went down with a back injury late in the first half.
Davis had to be taken from the floor on a stretcher with back spasms and won't play tonight. Ballard is expected to play.
Davis, who scored a career-high 33 points and had 11 rebounds Sunday against Indiana, was injured when he scored on a layup that gave the Bullets a 44-40 lead with 1 minute 20 seconds left in the first half.
"I had to twist my body to make the shot and when I came down, it was on someone's shoe or something," Davis said. "I felt pain shoot up my back. I was really scared at first because I couldn't even move my legs. It's just sore now."
Team physician Steve Haas, who examined Davis after the game said he would re-examine Davis again today. The Bullets have Thursday off and play at Indiana Friday. Davis said he hopes to play then.
Don Collins, normally the third guard, played small forward the rest of the game after Davis' injury and when Ricky Sobers picked up his fourth foul early in the third period, seldom-used Kevin Grevey was used to spell him.
Grevey and Collins scored four points apiece in a 12-2 rally that lifted the Bullets from a 48-46 deficit to a 58-50 advantage with 6:35 left in the quarter.
They later increased the lead to 10 and then used an 11-0 burst early in the fourth period to seal the victory.
Jeff Ruland, the NBA player of the week last week, scored 24 points and had 16 rebounds. But it was the defense more than anything that won the game for the Bullets. The Bucks shot only 41 percent and were held to their lowest point total of the season.
Sidney Moncrief, playing for the first time in two weeks because of a sore thigh, scored 16 points, but made only five of 14 shots.
Marques Johnson made only three of 10 shots and scored a season low seven points.
"We played good defense all night," said Frank Johnson. "Whenever one of our men broke down, someone else was there to pick him up."
This was the second time in five days the Bullets have beaten the Bucks, "and that's not easy to do," said a loose Coach Gene Shue.
"With both Greg and Charles out, we had to adjust our plays to get the shooters in the right spot, and defensively we were great. We were everywhere. There were no holes for them to do anything."
Johnson, who has been playing the past month with a jammed toe on his right foot that has hampered his play, was in charge from the beginning last night. He scored six of the Bullets first 11 points, two of them on long jump shots and made 10 of 18 shots for the game. It was the most shots he's attempted since January and the most points he's scored since November.
"I hadn't been looking to the basket much before tonight, but I know I have to be more aggressive offensively," Johnson said.