For the third time in as many games, the Washington Bullets put together a sustained mixture of torrid shooting from guard Jeff Malone, inspired play off the bench and a combination of fast-break and slow-down offense.
The effort was good enough to net a victory against Portland in the opener of the team's five-game swing west. However, for the second time in three nights, Washington was unable to sustain the effort and came up short in the end, falling to the SuperSonics, 112-106, before 11,738 tonight at the Coliseum.
Leading, 94-88, with nine minutes to play in the game, the visitors fell prey to a 15-2 run by Seattle, which improved to 19-34 under first year Coach Bernie Bickerstaff, for 12 years an assistant with the Bullets.
The spurt gave the SuperSonics a 103-96 lead with 4:30 to play in the game and was finally stopped with a basket by Malone, who scored more than 35 points for the third straight game.
Tonight the all-star finished with 36 to lead all scorers. He scored 43 against Portland and 36 against Golden State, giving him 115 points in three games.
Darren Daye tied his career high with 21 points for Washington, now 24-28 on the season. Rookie center Manute Bol had eight blocked shots. Jack Sikma led Seattle with 26 points.
Seattle's victory was its second in seven games, Washington's loss its fifth in six games.
For the first time in nearly two months, the Bullets entered a game with 12 active players. However, only 11 were dressed for duty, as center-forward Jeff Ruland decided to wait another day before resuming play.
"I'm pretty sure that I'll play in Monday's game (against the Los Angeles Clippers)," said Ruland.
In the lineup tonight was guard Gus Williams, who for the second consecutive year returned to the Northwest and received a regal welcome from the Seattle fans.
As if on cue, the former SuperSonic scored four of the Bullets' first five points as the visitors jumped out to a 5-2 lead. However, Sikma scored five straight points to put his team ahead by 7-5 with 8:30 remaining in the opening quarter.
Befitting two squads that are stingy defensively and relatively ineffective offensively, there wasn't a great deal of scoring for the period, which ended with the Bullets in front, 22-17.
Continuing his spell of effective play off the bench was Daye, who led the Bullets with seven points, the same number Sikma scored for Seattle.
Bol had four points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots in the first period.
Daye continued to sparkle early in the second quarter, feeding Cliff Robinson for a layup and scoring another basket himself. But the SuperSonics exploited the Bullets' forwards at the other end of the floor.
Xavier McDaniel and Danny Vranes scored nine straight points for the SuperSonics and brought the team to within two, 28-26, with nine minutes remaining in the first half.
Three minutes later, the score was only 34-33 in favor of the Bullets, and with 4:36 to play in the half Washington was still ahead, 39-36.
Malone, who had only three points in the first period, went on a tear at that point, scoring eight straight Bullets points and 12 of 14 overall as Washington moved ahead, 46-40, with 2:42 to play in the quarter.
Malone scored another five straight points in the last two minutes of the half, giving him 20 for the half, which ended with Washington on top, 55-48.
Daye was another plus factor for the Bullets, with 13 points and four assists in the half.
For the third consecutive game, the Bullets ended the first half with a healthy field goal percentage, making 56 percent of their shots. Seattle, which was led by Sikma with 12 points, converted just 42 percent of its field goal attempts.
Unfortunately for the Bullets, just as in last Thursday's loss to the Golden State Warriors, they was unable to maintain that pace and allowed the opposition to get back into the game. Baskets by Sikma and Tom Chambers and a free throw by Gerald Henderson cut the Bullets' lead to 55-53 with 9:45 to play in the third period.
As in the opening half, scoring came hard for both teams. With 7:45 left in the quarter, the score was 61-60 Washington. Malone added another two baskets to his total.
Eight of the SuperSonics' 12 second-half points at that stage came from the foul line. For the game at that point, the home team had shot 32 free throws to 13 for the Bullets.
Malone once again went to work for the Bullets. After a Dan Roundfield free throw, the sharpshooting all-star scored five straight points to give the visitors a 67-62 lead with six minutes to play in the quarter.
With 4:24 to play, Tom McMillen, reactivated on Friday after recovering from a ruptured tendon in his right foot, made his first appearance in nine games for the Bullets. At the 2:50 mark the veteran forward made one of two free throws to give his team a 74-68 lead.
After three periods Washington held an 82-80 lead. An offensive rebound basket by Daye with three seconds left was surpassed by a half-court, three-point field goal by Seattle's Michael Phelps at the buzzer ending the third quarter.