Anyone looking for significant implications in the Washington Bullets' 125-104 victory Sunday over the Milwaukee Bucks will have to be patient, according to Milwaukee all-star guard Sidney Moncrief.
"What did this game mean in terms of the playoffs?" he asked, referring to the teams' possible first-round matchup. "Probably nothing, except for the fact that they know they can beat us now and we know that we can be beaten by them."
Of more immediate interest to the Bullets is that the victory may have implications in tonight's game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
Like the Bucks, the Knicks constantly trap and double-team in an attempt to throw their opponents' offense out of whack. Presumably, success against the Bucks (the Central Division leaders who had a 10-game winning streak ended by Washington Sunday) would mean an easy time against the Knicks, 19-41 after losing to Milwaukee last night and in the Atlantic Division cellar.
"That's what I thought was significant about Sunday's win," said Bullets Coach Gene Shue. "The Bucks are a very good team. They're well-coached and are playing great ball now."
According to guard Jeff Malone, the performance was encouraging entering tonight's game. "We wore that thing Milwaukee's trapping defense out and that's important when you go against the Knicks," he said. "You can't let teams always double-team you and get away with it."
Perhaps equally important was that the victory was achieved without center/forward Jeff Ruland, who also will miss tonight's game because of a strained left knee. The veteran said he hoped to return Thursday night for a Capital Centre rematch against New York but it was obvious that Shue wasn't exactly counting on it.
"Thursday? Which Thursday are you talking about?" he said, with a trace of sarcasm in his voice.
Ruland, who sat on the Washington bench with injured guard Frank Johnson during Sunday's game, accepted a well-wisher's hand with a smirk. "Yes, it has been a tough two years. I wouldn't disagree with that," he said.
Meanwhile, center Manute Bol has played the last eight games with a sprained left thumb. The 7-foot-7 rookie would like a breather himself but realizes the time isn't right for such a luxury.
"I shouldn't play, but we need a center," he said. "Sometimes I get a rebound but can't hold it because of the tape on the thumb . I can't give it up, though, say I can't play, because we would only have forwards left."
One of the forwards, Cliff Robinson, felt that while the victory against Milwaukee was nice, it wouldn't mean very much if the Bullets were to founder against the Knicks.
"I think beating Milwaukee showed how good we can be but now we have to start putting those kinds of games together," he said.