By all appearances, Sunday night's game at the Forum between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Washington Bullets should be a mismatch.
After all, the defending NBA champions have a 26-5 mark this season, best in the league. Their players -- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott, Maurice Lucas, et al -- make up a sizable chunk of the NBA's glitter.
And with good reason. The Lakers average a league-high 121 points per game, winning by an average margin of 10, also the best in the NBA.
Still, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to predict a Bullets victory, based on nothing more than the visitors' unpredictability.
Washington is 16-16, a fitting record for a team that doesn't seem to know up from down, in from out or home from road. The Bullets were undefeated away from Capital Centre in October and winless on the road in November.
Then, after losing their first away game in December -- the seventh straight -- Washington rallied to win three consecutive times. Already the Bullets have won their only road game of the new year, defeating the New York Knicks, 115-109, on Jan. 2, which gives the Bullets four straight road wins entering Sunday's contest.
"You don't know how much that means to a team, being able to win on the road," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue. "Just being able to walk into a place and know that you have a good chance of winning is a great feeling."
That feeling will be necessary, not only against the Lakers but for the entire trip of five games in seven days, with stops in Sacramento, Phoenix, Utah and Houston.
The Bullets defeated the Kings, 111-89, on Dec. 8, but the newly located franchise has a powerful advantage playing in the Arco Arena. Seating 10,000 screaming zealots, the building has been sold out for every Sacramento game so far this season.
After losing their first nine games, the Suns have played close to .500 basketball, improving their record to 10-20. Utah defeated the Bullets, 106-98, on Dec. 17, a game that actually began the slide in which Washington has lost five of its last six at home.
The Utah game will give the Bullets another chance to look at Karl Malone, a more-than-competent forward whom Washington bypassed in last June's draft. There's also the attraction of a rematch between Washington's 7-foot-7 center Manute Bol and Utah's Mark Eaton, who stands only 7-4 but weighs close to 100 pounds more that the rookie pivot man. Eaton leads the NBA's shot-blocking standings with an average of 4.09 per game, and Bol follows close behind with an average of four.
In Houston, the Bullets will have the opportunity to do what no other NBA squad has been able to accomplish this season: defeat the Rockets at home. Led by Akeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson and John Lucas, Houston has mowed down 17 successive opponents at the Summit.