The Washington Bullets, ever so thankful to find their winning streak intact, held a brief workout at Bowie State College yesterday in preparation for tonight's game against the Celtics in Boston Garden (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:30).
Trying to win its eighth consecutive game, the team comes off a lackluster performance in the 97-92 Thanksgiving eve victory over the Kansas City Kings before another minimal crowd, 4,862, at Capital Centre. In what was by far the most spiritless game played by the Bullets in at least two weeks, Washington, now 9-5 and two games behind the Celtics in the NBA's Atlantic Division, managed to control its collective ennui long enough to hold off a late charge by the Kings.
After a 120-105 victory over the 76ers Tuesday night in Philadelphia, putting the Bullets only a half-game behind the second-place 76ers, Washington avoided a demoralizing defeat. Now, after facing the Celtics tonight, it's back to the Centre on Saturday as the Bullets' telltale week concludes against the Detroit Pistons. Washington is 6-1 at home this season despite the empty seats.
In Boston, the Bullets will be going against the Celtics' customary sellout crowd, as well as a team that has lost only once in 10 games this season. That defeat, of course, was administered, 112-95, by the Bullets Nov. 10 in Landover. That game came one night after the Celtics and 76ers played an emotion-charged game that included a fight between superstars Larry Bird and Julius Erving.
Besides having the get-even factor on their side, the Celtics too have been playing excellent basketball. In routing the Golden State Warriors, 135-91, Wednesday night, Boston, second in the league in scoring with more than 123 points a game, had eight men score in double figures. Center Robert Parish was high with 18, a sign of balance and depth.
Over the last seven games, those have also been staples of the Bullets, the NBA's third-best defensive squad (just over 102 points allowed per game). After the Kings game, guard Frank Johnson said the Bullets are perhaps on their way to adding another valuable quality.
"We have to learn to keep some sort of perspective," he said. "We were up so high for the Philly game that we let the Kings keep lulling us to sleep."
That won't happen against Boston, said Johnson, who guarantees "the Celtics game will be more exciting. K.C. (Kansas City, not Boston Coach Jones) wouldn't run and by controlling the clock they didn't let us get into the flow. All the other teams we've played and blown out rushed the ball upcourt and took quick shots. That helped us get going, too. Boston will play that way."
Against Kansas City, Cliff Robinson shot eight of 11 from the field, collected 11 rebounds and led the Bullets with 20 points but also had seven turnovers, one fewer than center Jeff Ruland. The game's high scorer was Kings forward Eddie Johnson with 34 points.
For the game, Washington turned the ball over 28 times and often struggled to execute both the fast break and the set offense. Coach Gene Shue, however, presented a sympathetic face after the game.
"Winning, winning, winning, that's what it's all about," he said. "Against the 76ers we played great, were on an emotional high. Tonight we were a step slow but we're very thankful that we won."