They have the stars -- Marques Johnson, Norm Nixon, Derek Smith, Cedric Maxwell, Junior Bridgeman -- but the Los Angeles Clippers' 1985-86 season is fast becoming a flop.
Last night at Capital Centre, they made their last stop on their seven-game traveling show a gruesome one. They were neither well prepared nor well received by the Washington Bullets, who executed their defensive plot to near perfection in defeating Los Angeles, 90-77, before a crowd of 5,109.
"Our defense was really solid," said Washington Coach Gene Shue after his team held Los Angeles to 31 of 79 shots from the field (39 percent) and a team-low point total at Capital Centre this season. "That was incredible defense."
Los Angeles Coach Don Chaney might have said the same about the Clippers, who held Washington to even poorer shooting, 35 of 98 for 36 percent. But he didn't, perhaps because his team committed 31 turnovers.
When he did speak, he said this: "It was by far our worst game; we couldn't pass or shoot. I thought our basket was too low in the second and fourth quarters. I tried many combinations, but none worked. We have to forget about this game."
He may want to put this 1-6 road trip and 12-27 season out of mind as well and, if possible, obliterate Capital Centre from his thoughts. The Clippers have not won here since 1979 and have an all-time mark of 7-21 here.
The return home was brief for the Bullets. Tonight in Chicago they will meet the Bulls, against whom they are two for two this season. And, this time, the Bullets will have their newest weapon, Leon Wood.
He replaced Jeff Malone with 10:38 remaining in the second quarter, and one minute later his three-point goal gave the Bullets the lead for good, 26-24.
He made only one basket thereafter but his six assists, five rebounds and nonstop enthusiasm helped greatly. He finished with nine points and a brighter future.
"Leon's going to help us, without doubt," Shue said. "Right now, his starting is not in our plans, but I'm a very flexible coach.
"Basically, Leon's strategy is to push the ball up the floor, and he's been keeping his composure while he's doing it. We don't want to run the ball all the time, because I don't think we can win that way."
Wood, acquired from Philadelphia Friday for forward Kenny Green, has totaled 26 points in two games for Washington. He has yet to practice with the team.
"I've got a lot of guys backing me up and telling me plays on the court," he said. "Once we got it going, it was like, 'wow,' we really can have a lot of fun out there."
He assisted Cliff Robinson for six of his game-high 25 points. Robinson overcame early shooting woes to score 17 in the second half on seven-of-13 shooting.
Referee Jess Kersey had to call the game by himself in the first quarter because Billy Oakes inexplicably failed to show. That allowed for increased contact inside, and the Clippers benefited.
Mel Whitworth, an NBA referee who happened to be at the game, joined Kersey at the start of the second quarter.
Kurt Nimphius' three-point play in the first quarter started the Clippers on a seven-point run that provided their largest lead of the first half, 18-12, and sent Washington center Manute Bol to the bench with his second foul.
Tom McMillen replaced Bol, and the Bullets toughened defensively. Charles Jones' dunk with 1:24 left in the quarter brought the Bullets within three. But Maxwell, capitalizing on Kersey's reluctant whistles, banged his way inside to put the Clippers ahead by 24-19 after one period.
The Bullets shot nine of 25 in the second quarter and their leading scorer this season, Jeff Malone, spent nine minutes on the bench. But Wood's play enabled the Bullets to outscore Los Angeles, 28-17. His go-ahead basket came after McMillen had scored twice. Gus Williams and starter Dudley Bradley did their share, holding Nixon scoreless in the first half and to four points in the game.
Benoit Benjamin's three-point play cut Washington's lead to 37-36 with 2:54 remaining in the half, but the Bullets got eight straight points -- Dan Roundfield scoring six -- and led at the half, 47-41.
Ninety minutes before last night's game, Washington center Jeff Ruland dribbled a basketball onto the Capital Centre floor for the first time since he broke his right ankle Dec. 11. He moved cautiously but but didn't limp as he put up a variety of jump shots. He is expected to return within 10 days. Suns 121, Spurs 98
In Phoenix, Jay Humphries' career-high 27 points helped rout San Antonio. The Suns went ahead by 10 in the first quarter and never let the Spurs get closer. The Suns led by at least 21 in the last period in winning their second straight game by more than 20 points. Nuggets 119, Bucks 115 In Milwaukee, Alex English had 42 points in Denver's victory and scored three in the last minute to clinch it. Knicks 115, Kings 97
Patrick Ewing scored 20 of his 24 points in the first half in New York to help the Knicks go ahead by 22 points. He skipped the fourth quarter because the Knicks started with a 19-point lead. Mavericks 90, SuperSonics 89
Sam Perkins' six-foot jumper as time ran out gave Dallas the victory in Seattle.
The SuperSonics took an 89-88 lead on Ricky Sobers' 18-foot jumper with five seconds to play. Warriors 119, Pacers 108
Golden State hadn't won in January since 1984 but Purvis Short's 33 points won the game in Oakland, despite the 32 points Wayman Tisdale scored for Indiana.