Few people could have been happier to get out of this city Saturday night than the Washington Bullets.
The Bullets have had nothing but bad luck against the Pacers this season, and it has been even worse at Market Square Arena.
Indiana -- which possesses the third worst record in the NBA and the key to beating the Bullets -- defeated Washington, 105-100, Saturday night for the fourth straight time this season. The appearance here was the Bullets' third and last this season.
The Bullets (32-35) are in the seventh of eight playoff positions in the Eastern Conference and Monday night will play host to the New Jersey Nets, who are in the sixth spot.
Against the Pacers, the Bullets dug themselves a hole early and weren't able to get out. They took a 13-10 lead, then fell apart. Clint Richardson scored two quick baskets to spark an 8-0 surge, and the Pacers outscored the Bullets, 23-8, the rest of the quarter for a 33-21 lead.
The deficit grew to as much as 49-25 early in the second quarter. Washington went almost four minutes without scoring during that stretch.
"I think, first of all, the Pacers played a very good game," Bullets Coach Gene Shue said. "They played well to get the 24-point lead early. . . . In the first half, we just couldn't get anything going and the shots wouldn't fall. The player combinations I was using just weren't working."
Indiana's defense, which previously had held the Bullets to an 85-points-per-game average, was particularly successful on Jeff Malone early in the game. The Pacers' guards, Richardson and Vern Fleming, held him to three-for-12 shooting in the first half.
"Indiana played good defense, and I got off to a slow start," Malone said. "You have to give credit to Indiana; they played well. They hit just about everything they put up. I mean, they had 50 points part way through the second quarter and we were playing good defense."
With Jeff Ruland out with a knee injury and center Manute Bol playing a limited role on offense, the Bullets had to rely on outside shooting to get back in the game. Former Pacer Kevin McKenna hit four three-point field goals and Washington closed the gap to 96-93 with 2:26 left. But the Pacers' Steve Stipanovich scored on a tip-in and Herb Williams hit two free throws to put the lead at 100-93. Washington cut it to 100-96, but Fleming hit three free throws and Richardson two to clinch the victory.
Williams, who averages 19.1 points per game overall but 28.5 against the Bullets, led the Pacers with 27 points. The Bullets got 32 from Malone and 20 from forward Cliff Robinson, who was ejected in the third quarter for arguing a call by referee Bennet Salvatore.