Washington Bullets center Jeff Ruland received treatment for his strained right shoulder today and probably will not play in Friday's game against the Denver Nuggets.
"The range of motion is better, I can lift it higher, but I don't think I'll be able to go," Ruland said after the rest of his teammates went through a very light workout here at McNichols Arena.
Ruland hurt the shoulder late in the third quarter in Monday's 101-91 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers and missed Wednesday's game with Utah. "I went up to throw a pass and someone pulled my arm back," Ruland said.
X-rays indicate that Ruland might have a slight tear of the rotator cuff, an injury more common to baseball players. "All I know is that the pain still exists," he said.
Also hobbling is forward Cliff Robinson, who remains bothered by pain throughout his right leg. Although his step has improved since injuring the leg last Sunday against Philadelphia, Robinson still moves with a noticeable limp.
Additionally, the Bullets' assistant coach, Bernie Bickerstaff, missed Wednesday's 103-101 victory over the Jazz because of flu. Despite these absences, Washington controlled the game until the Jazz made a fourth-quarter run.
After Darrell Griffith's three-point jumper with two seconds to play tied the score at 101, Greg Ballard responded with the game-winner following a pass from Darren Daye, who looped the ball over the outstretched arms of Utah's 7-foot-4 center, Mark Eaton.
"People only noticed the shot but that was a helluva play by Darren," said Bickerstaff, who listened to the game in his hotel room.
Apart from Ballard's shot and the outstanding job by Tom McMillen (20 points and six rebounds in 45 minutes) in place of Ruland, perhaps the game's biggest play was turned in by Gus Williams. Williams scored a game-high 31 points but it was a defensive move that might have saved Washington.
Entering the fourth quarter with an 82-64 lead, the Bullets saw Utah go on a 16-5 run midway through the period to cut the margin to 97-91. With less than two minutes left, the Jazz had momentum when Rickey Green headed in for a layup that would have brought Utah within four.
But at the point of release, Williams, playing with five fouls, swooped over from the right to block the shot. Although the Jazz did tie the score, the play by Williams staved off the rally.
"We played phenomenal basketball in the third quarter but that fourth period surprised me quite a bit," Bullets Coach Gene Shue said. "They probably set a record for most three-point plays in a period."
Utah's ability to score quickly was the key to its comeback. Besides Griffith's shot, Green made a three-point basket for Utah. In addition, the team had three three-point plays.
Against Denver, the Bullets probably will need a better effort. As usual, the Nuggets lead the league in scoring at nearly 119 points a game, but they are tougher defensively. A half-court, man-to-man pressure approach has cut the team's average yield by more than three points a game from last season, one reason why Denver is in first place in the Midwest Division.
Just as they did against Utah, the Bullets plan on slowing the pace against the Nuggets, not only maximizing their chances of getting better shots in an execution offense, but also trying to entice Denver into slowing down.