What Friday night's game between the Washington Bullets and Chicago Bulls amounted to was an old-fashioned game of poker. With an emphasis on bluffing.
In the hand played by the Bullets, there was Gus Williams, Cliff Robinson and the promise of a "new" team, complete with a modern, fast-break offense. Oh yeah, countered the Bulls, look at what we have here: Mr. Michael Jordan, Olympic hero and soon to be rookie of the year and the National Basketball Association's most valuable player.
When the hands were called however, neither had completely lived up to its advance billing. The Bulls came away with a 109-93 victory mainly on the strength of two cards picked up from the kitty. Orlando Woolridge's 28 points and Quintin Dailey's 25 more than made up for the less than expected 16 points Jordan scored.
For the Bullets, Williams tied Frank Johnson for team high-point honors with 15, but made just five of 15 shots. Robinson fared worse in his debut for the Bullets, shooting three of 10 and scoring eight points.
"It was obvious that Cliff and myself just weren't in game shape tonight," said Williams, who missed much of the exhibition season with a sprained left ankle. Back spasms and a sore shoulder were responsible for Robinson missing much valuable training. "It's not easy to blend in with the guys who've been out there all of training camp."
Although displaying a fine all-around game, as was evidenced by his six rebounds, seven assists and four blocked shots, Jordan had a few woes of his own. Primarily responsible for drawing an opening night crowd of 13,913 (more than 5,000 more people than attended Chicago's season opener a year ago), he was a lackluster five of 16 from the field.
Then, with 7:19 left in the second period, his hopes, along with those of nearly all of Chicago -- came close to crashing to the ground.
Continuing the play after being whistled for traveling, Jordan tried to dunk the basketball over Jeff Ruland. Not quite able to scale the Bullets' 6-foot-10 mountain, the rookie lost his balance and landed hard, first striking the floor with his back and then his neck. He lay still for nearly a minute, but later professed no concern about possible injury. Indeed, the first thing he questioned after the collision was how he could be whistled for walking.
"I just stayed down there so long because Quintin said he was tired and needed a rest," said Jordan. Asked which part of Ruland's body he struck, he quickly replied, "Where did I hit him? You've got that a little backwards don't you? He fell back and knocked me a little off balance.
"It was a little scary but no big thing. If I'm trying to score and he's between me and the basket I'll do the same thing next time."
After the Bullets started slowly, scoring just 12 points in the first six minutes of the game, it was a bit surprising to see forward Charles Davis come off the bench as their first substitute.
Davis, like his teammates, didn't shoot well, making one of six from the field. But he had four rebounds and was on the court when the team made a strong third-quarter run at the Bulls.
After the game was out of reach, Coach Gene Shue cleared his bench, with everyone except Guy Williams playing. Forward Greg Ballard, who joined the team just five hours before game time, played the last nine minutes of the game but didn't score.