The Washington Bullets showed once again tonight that they still are searching for a tempo on the road. The Atlanta Hawks provided the beat before 8,713 at the Omni as they defeated the Bullets, 119-101.
"I'm not satisfied at all with this," said Coach Gene Shue, whose Bullets are 4-10 on the road this season. "As far as I'm concerned, we did nothing worth mentioning on the court tonight."
Aside from a brief second-quarter run, the Bullets never threatened as the Hawks broke a losing streak. Atlanta had lost its last four by a combined 14 points to Houston, Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago.
"We met before tonight as a team and simply decided we weren't playing any more close games. No problem," Coach Mike Fratello said.
The problems were all Washington's. Looking haggard, the Bullets were put away by a 12-point run by the Hawks midway through the third quarter. Then, up by 84-70, the Hawks never allowed the Bullets closer than 16.
The Bullets' plight was typified by the play of Greg Ballard. Although he had scored 47 points in the first two games with Atlanta this season, Ballard fell seven points shy of his 11-point average tonight.
"It's a credit to the Hawks," Shue said. "They ran the break well, passed well and shot well. They didn't let us do much of anything.
"We played like a tired team tonight. There was no life out there. None. We've been having problems on the road all year. Tonight, we didn't look any closer to solving them."
Ballard seemed to agree. "We didn't play with much intensity tonight," he said. "Atlanta is a team we should beat, but when you don't come with intensity, anybody in the league can beat you."
Dominique Wilkins had 31 points and seven rebounds for Atlanta. More important, he repeatedly got away from whomever was assigned to guard him. During the pivotal third-quarter run, he scored eight points. In the first period, he had scored eight of the Hawks' first 12 points in a 12-6 surge.
The third quarter was accompanied by the Bullets sleepwalking offensively for 3 1/2 minutes, in which three turnovers and seven missed shots were the sum. The Bullets never drew closer than 14 again.
When the Bullets did try to make a game of it, closing to 98-84 with 9:03 left in the game, the Hawks closed off the inside to center Jeff Ruland and forward Rick Mahorn.
Ruland led the Bullets with 24 points but often frustrated inside by Tree Rollins, whose 18 points were a season high.
The Hawks outscored the Bullets by 18-8 over the final 5:30 of the second quarter to take the halftime advantage. The Hawks' surge was led by Wilkins, who had six of his 14 first-half points during the run. Glenn Rivers had four points.
Washington trailed by 33-23 after the first quarter. An efficient fast break enabled the Hawks to build a 14-point advantage at 33-19, but two inside baskets by Darren Daye inside the last 1:30 brought the Bullets within 10.
While Fratello rested his starters for the first five minutes of the second quarter, the Bullets were able to cut slowly into the deficit. Working inside against rookie center Kevin Willis, Ruland and Mahorn scored eight points. Dudley Bradley added a three-point goal and a three-point play as the Bullets drew to 42-38