The Washington Bullets, winners of their last three games and four of their last five, now swing into Texas for two games against NBA Midwest Division teams and hope to come home a .500 basketball team. Tonight, the Bullets (6-8) will face the Dallas Mavericks. Wednesday, they engage the San Antonio Spurs, 81-80 winners here on Nov. 6.
That loss was the fourth in what would become a seven-game Washington losing streak. No. 5 was a 117-110 defeat by Detroit two nights later at Capital Centre, since which the Bullets have swept four of four home games. The most recent was Sunday night's 115-106 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
The showing against Chicago bodes well. The Bullets displayed an impressive combination of inside and outside scoring, along with fast-break and set-offense efficacy. "The more games a team wins, the more confident it becomes," said guard Gus Williams. "I think we're playing better defense and rebounding better, and the fellas are running the lanes better."
Williams scored 25 points against the Bulls, bettering his previous season high of 22 against New York two nights earlier. The upswing in Williams' play can be attributed almost directly to the improvement of the team's front-court players.
After a slow start early this season, Cliff Robinson, Dan Roundfield, Jeff Ruland, Charles Jones and Darren Daye are beginning to exhibit the abilities and, perhaps more important, the flexibility that was hinted at throughout the preseason.
One can find a different hero among those players in each of Washington's recent winning efforts. Against Chicago Sunday, Ruland led the way with 27 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists. Against the Knicks Friday, Ruland had 22 points and 15 rebounds, but Robinson scored 22 with seven rebounds and Roundfield contributed 15 points and 16 rebounds. In a 101-98 win over Cleveland last Wednesday, Robinson had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
The team's fortunes began to turn with a 118-97 rout of Philadelphia on Nov. 16. In that game, Daye came off the bench for 21 points, but Jones probably was the most valuable contributor with his work against Moses Malone. In the last five games, Jones has averaged almost seven rebounds and more than three blocked shots.
"Our big players are working very well together. They're covering for each other and we're getting great productivity," said Coach Gene Shue. "We can switch between defense and offense or if someone isn't playing well, we can adjust to that."
The next step in the team's development, according to Shue, is "stabilizing the back court." The return of Frank Johnson would help achieve that goal, but Shue still isn't certain when the veteran will be able to make his 1985-86 debut.
An examination last week cleared the way for Johnson to begin full-scale practices, but team doctors have advised him to sit out tonight's game in Dallas.
"They told me that he could use the one day off," said Shue. "So he won't play against Dallas for sure. We're not certain about the San Antonio game." Asked what difference the single day off would make, Shue said, "That's exactly what I wanted to know, too, but they said it does matter."
The coach said that if Johnson can join the club in San Antonio, "We would have to make some sort of roster decision."