The Washington Bullets, weary in mind and body, were given a day off yesterday. No game, no practice, nothing.
"We're kind of tired and we really need this day off," said Greg Ballard. "The intensity has been so high because we've had to practically win every game for so long. The pressure may have been starting to get to us."
The rest will be a short one, as the Bullets (38-38) return to the playoff scramble tonight against the Celtics at Boston Garden (WDCA-TV-20, 7:30). Washington trails the New York Knicks by one game and the Atlanta Hawks by 1 1/2 in the race for the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta (40-37) hosts Chicago tonight and New York (39-37) is at home against San Antonio.
None of the three contenders played last night.
Any combination of five New York victories or Washington defeats would put the Knicks in the playoffs, and any combination of four would do the same for the Hawks. The Knicks looked like the best of the three a week ago, but since have lost four of five.
The Bullets had won nine of 10 games before their first bad night in a long time Wednesday at the Silverdome. They lost, 107-96, to the Detroit Pistons, and were outshot, outrebounded and outhustled.
"We made a lot of foolish mistakes," said Ballard.
"You can't play at the level of intensity we have for the past month and not have a game like that at some point," said Coach Gene Shue. "We had been playing so well that it's difficult to fault the players. Games like that happen."
The Bullets' reserves were outscored, 45-8, and the guards made only 13 of 46 shots (28 percent).
"It happened and now it's over and out of our systems," said Ricky Sobers.
The only bright spot for the Bullets was forward Jeff Ruland. He started for the first time in a week and played 47 minutes; he appeared to have much more flexibility in his sprained right wrist than he had shown the previous game, against the New Jersey Nets Tuesday. He had it wrapped differently, which seemed to give him more support.
Ruland scored 23 points and had 13 rebounds and three assists.
Forward Charles Davis, who strained his lower back against the Milwaukee Bucks 10 days ago, has suited up the last two games and Shue said he may use him tonight.
The Bullets lost to the Celtics, 120-117, in overtime at Capital Centre Saturday. A victory tonight would give the Bullets a 3-3 season record against Boston.
The Bullets have only five games remaining after tonight and three are on the road--at Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Cleveland. The home games are against Atlanta Saturday and Detroit April 16.
"We've pretty much accepted the fact now that if we lose again, it's probably all over," said Ballard, "but the only thing we can do is try to stay loose and just do the best we can."
Ballard, the Bullets' player representative, said the team voted unanimously to accept the agreement in principle on a new contract reached last week by the players association and NBA management. The player representatives met in Chicago Monday and all 23 voted to accept the agreement.
Larry Fleisher, general counsel for the players, said 18 teams had voted unanimously for the agreement. "As soon as the other five report their votes, we'll draw up the final agreement," he said.
The Bullets will start selling tickets for the first two home playoff games during the Hawks game. Public ticket sales will resume Monday at Capital Centre and by Sportscharge. Graphic: photo United Press International Ricky Sobers drives on Michael Ray Richardson in Tuesday game. Bullets, fighting for a playoff spot, meet Celtics tonight in Boston.