The Washington Bullets ended a four-game losing streak tonight by defeating the Utah Jazz, 95-89, before 12,201 in a game that was strikingly similar to one played here last season.
On Jan. 16, 1985, an injury-ridden Bullets squad came to the Salt Palace and left with a slow-down, 103-101 victory. Tonight the scene virtually was repeated as the Bullets, missing the injured Jeff Ruland and Frank Johnson, got a victory by effectively controlling the tempo, keeping it mostly to a snail's pace.
It helped that Washington was playing a team that must run to win and possibly is going through even tougher luck than the Bullets. Utah (17-20) has lost nine of its last 10 games.
Tonight the Jazz lost despite a stellar performance by Adrian Dantley. The forward, who attended DeMatha High School, scored 28 points in the first half but was limited by a hip pointer to just four in the second.
Washington (17-19), meanwhile, got scoring from several sources. Jeff Malone led the Bullets with 32 points. Cliff Robinson had 21.
After the game, for the first time in a week, Bullets Coach Gene Shue was able to meet the media with something other than, "We're just a struggling team right now without any offense."
Tonight, it was: "I just want to say, 'Yea!' I'm just tickled to death. We were very conscious of slowing the game down tonight. The fatigue factor was beginning to set in on our team. We've been trying to run but very ineffectively. In this game we decided to use our energy on the defensive end."
Apart from allowing Dantley his spree, the Bullets certainly accomplished their objective. Utah was limited to 40 percent shooting for the game from the field but dropped even lower without Dantley's 11-for-20 performance. Only one other player, guard John Stockton, hit half his shots, and his 12 points were Utah's second-best total.
The Bullets, who had not shot 40 percent on the first three games of their five-game trip west, connected on exactly half of their field-goal attempts. Besides the impressive games by Malone and Robinson, Washington also benefited from a lineup change.
In an attempt to get more scoring from his reserves, Shue inserted guard Dudley Bradley into the lineup for Gus Williams. Although Williams scored just eight points, he had seven assists, many of them to Tom McMillen, who finished with 12 points.
It was a jumper by Williams at 3:32 of the second quarter that gave Washington the lead for good, although no lead seemed safe given Dantley's performance. Twenty-three of the veteran's points came in the second quarter, including three three-point plays in the first 3:05.
"They were running some clever plays for him, and he's a clever player," said Shue, who saw Dantley go around, over and sometimes through four defenders for his points.
The Bullets had some success during the third quarter by double-teaming him when he received the ball in the low post but perhaps the turning point came early in the final quarter when Dantley fell after a collision with Robinson. From that point he was ineffective, finally leaving for good with six minutes to play. The all-star forward is expected to be out of the Utah lineup for at least four games.
By the time Dantley had left, Malone had established himself as well. Besides scoring on his pet long jumpers off teammates' screens, the guard also demonstrated some ability in the open court. Using a spread set as well as pick-and-rolls -- formations usually reserved for Williams -- Malone was able to apply even more pressure to the Jazz. Eleven of his points came in the final 12 minutes.
"The plays we were running are some that I don't normally get a chance to do, but I think it worked out well," he said. "The slow-down game helped, too, because we were all getting good shots."
Part of the reason the Jazz couldn't say the same was, of course, Manute Bol. It was in his honor that the home team touted the game as "The Manute Bo(w)l," and the rookie center didn't disappoint, blocking seven shots and getting nine rebounds.