Forward Jeff Ruland sprained his right wrist in the Bullets' three-point victory over the New Jersey Nets Wednesday and his status is uncertain for tonight's game against the Indiana Pacers at Market Square Arena.
The team went from New York to Indiana yesterday, but Ruland went home to have Steve Haas, the Bullets' team physician, examine his wrist.
Although X-rays showed no fracture, Ruland said the wrist was stiff and sore. "Of course I'm going to try to play," he said. "We can't lose any games."
The Bullets said a determination on Ruland's status will be made just before game time (7:35, WTOP-1500).
The Bullets (36-36) have won seven games in a row, four on the road. Their 100-97 victory over the Nets, coupled with the Philadelphia 76ers' 120-113 victory over the Atlanta Hawks (38-36), got the Bullets within one game of the Hawks in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Hawks will play at Chicago tonight. Washington and Atlanta were idle last night.
The Bullets play the Hawks one more time, April 9 at Capital Centre. The Hawks have clinched the season series against the Bullets, so they would get the playoff spot in case of a tie. But since the teams are now even in the loss column, Washington will beat out the Hawks by simply losing one fewer game than Atlanta.
The Hawks have eight games remaining, the Bullets 10.
Ruland incurred the injury in the first two minutes of the Nets' game when he ran into the basket support. He was bothered by it the rest of the game, but showed no adverse effects. He played 38 minutes and led the Bullets with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
Coach Gene Shue is unsure what he'll do if Ruland is unavailable. His options are to use Greg Ballard at power forward and start Don Collins in Ballard's spot at small forward, or use Carlos Terry or Dave Batton at power forward.
Ruland has been the main force behind the Bullets' surge. They have won 11 of their last 15 games, during which Ruland has averaged 24.2 points and 12.2 rebounds. The Bullets have given up 100 points or more only twice during that span.
"We're playing as well as we can," said Shue. "When we were losing all of those games before this winning streak, we were playing well, too, but things just weren't going our way. Now they are."
Ballard gave the Bullets an unexpected lift with 22 points against the Nets in his first game after missing the previous two with a sore back. He was pressed into duty partly becasue his backup, Charles Davis, injured his back Sunday and is expected to be out for at least the next two games.
Ballard played 42 minutes against the Nets and made 11 of 17 shots. He has been instructed not to play back-to-back games for a while, so with the day off yesterday, he said he should be fine for tonight's game.