The Washington Bullets have developed an affinity for defense this preseason, something amply reflected in the team's statistics.
In three NBA exhibition games -- victories over Atlantic Division rivals New York and Boston and the Dallas Mavericks of the Midwest Division -- the Bullets have held the opposition to an average of 88 points. On Saturday night, they gave up a few extra but still defeated Dallas, 110-91, at the Baltimore Civic Center.
During the 1984-85 season, the Bullets finished second in the NBA in points allowed, giving up an average of almost 106 a game. But that perhaps was reflective of the slowdown offense the team often incorporated because of injuries.
A truer measure of a team's defensive acumen might be opposition field goal percentage, a category in which Washington ranked eighth a year ago with a mark of 49 percent. In the three exhibition games this fall, it was down to 43 percent.
"There are lots of way to win games, and one of them is defense," said Washington Coach Gene Shue. "That's something that we want to have every night, and so far, everyone has been doing a great job at it."
Boston and Dallas each scored just 13 points in the second periods of their games against Washington. Those second-quarter numbers are particularly noteworthy because that's when the Bullets' second team generally enters the game. That, of course, has included 7-foot-7 rookie Manute Bol, who has blocked 17 shots in three games.
Farther away from the basket, guards Dudley Bradley and Perry Moss have been making life -- or at least passing and dribbling a basketball -- miserable for foes.
Moss has been the key in the team's half-court trap, pressuring the ball handler into the area where the double-team is applied. Bradley has free-lanced his way to 10 steals, showing why he was the No. 1 draft choice of the Indiana Pacers in 1979.
After catching on with the Bullets as a free agent before last season, Bradley was one of the few players in the league with more steals (96) than turnovers (84). Even so, more than a few people wondered if he would make the club this season, given his lack of punch on offense. His play thus far would seem to have made that question a moot point, but not to Bradley.
"I haven't been worrying about it because I'm not that kind of person, but I get concerned sometimes," he said. "Nothing is really guaranteed. I'm just happy to be here and playing basketball. I've just been pretty lucky so far."
Shue said, "The trap has been very effective because it helps us to play more aggressively and makes it harder for a team to get into its offense. Dudley's been a big part of that. He's played three great, great games."