With nine games remaining in the regular season, playing well is important to the Washington Bullets' pursuit of a favorable spot in the NBA playoffs. Friday night's 122-98 romp over the New Jersey Nets might help provide the late-season surge the Bullets need.
"The only blowouts we've been in have been to us," Coach Gene Shue said after the game. "This was a good game for us. We got good play from several people -- Charles Jones, Tom McMillen, Darren Daye, Jeff Malone -- it was a combination of everyone playing well. That's important now because we want to finish as high (in the standings) as we can."
Shue is hoping his team's inspired performance carries over into today's game at Indiana (2 p.m., Home Team Sports).
"We needed a game like this one to gain some momentum," said Malone, who has averaged 26.6 points in the last 10 games. "We got everyone playing well (against New Jersey) and we'll need that type of intensity in these last nine games."
Washington is 36-37, New Jersey 37-38 and Chicago 35-40 in the battle for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. Shue admitted overtaking fourth-place Detroit (39-33) is unlikely. Eight teams advance to the playoffs.
Washington played good inside defense against the Nets, limiting New Jersey Darryl Dawkins and Buck Williams to a total of 20 points and 11 rebounds. Shue elected to start Jones in place of small forward Greg Ballard because of his "overall defensive skills and quickness."
"It was a move we had planned, and we want to stick with C.J. starting with Rick Mahorn and Cliff Robinson," Shue said. "We can't say when Jeff Ruland (strained shoulder) will come back. C.J. has played very well recently."
Jones, known for his defensive play, rebounding and shot-blocking, also has chipped in with some timely baskets. He had 10 points in a loss to Philadelphia last week and 13 against the Nets.
Jones was one of seven Washington players to score in double figures in the Nets' game. The Bullets shot 51 percent from the field and outrebounded New Jersey, 58-46.
Washington should be able to control the inside against the struggling Pacers. Indiana has lost 15 of its last 16 and is solidly entrenched in last place in the Central Division with a 20-54 record.
Washington has won three of its four games with the Pacers, who are led by forward Clark Kellogg and center Steve Stipanovich.