The Washington Bullets held a short practice on Christmas Day in the hopes that they won't be so charitable in a rare weekday afternoon game today at 1:30 p.m. at Capital Centre against the Indiana Pacers.
That the Bullets enter the contest losers in six of their last eight games isn't a coincidence, but rather a direct result of his team's largesse, according to Coach Gene Shue. "I bet we've been beaten on the boards in each of those eight games," he said. "This is a new group but I thought that we were going to be a heck of a rebounding team."
That was a valid assumption with the addition of Cliff Robinson's 10.3 rebounds per game -- ninth best in the NBA last season -- to Jeff Ruland and Rick Mahorn. However, the Bullets are averaging just under 42 rebounds per game, nearly four less than their opponents.
"Rebounding is a funny thing," Shue said. "The problem has been a combination of things. Everyone, particularly the small forward and big guard, has to get their share of balls."
Adding to that problem in Saturday's 119-101 loss to Atlanta was Washington's inability, after letting the Hawks get the rebounds, to cut off their fast break. "There were just basic breakdowns. We allowed them too many easy baskets," said Shue.
Indiana is another team capable of exposing the Bullets' rebounding deficiencies. Using an offense that emphasizes ball movement, the Pacers often have their big men placed on the perimeters of the court, a set that allows guards Jim Thomas and Vern Fleming to rebound effectively. Washington has defeated the Pacers both times the teams have met this season, but Shue does not want to take anything for granted.
Hence, the Bullets' Christmas practice. "There are some things that we were trying to work on, getting back on defense as a team and helping each other out," Shue said. "In the stretch we've just been through, there was a lot of travel and tough teams and it was hard to get practice time. Now we have to start getting things back together."
After today's game, the Bullets are home Friday against the Hawks, then visit the New York Knicks Saturday.