CHICAGO, NOV. 16 -- How much easier life would be for the Washington Bullets if they could spend all their time playing against the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets.
"Those were two of the ugliest games in history," assistant coach Wes Unseld muttered following Sunday night's 113-109 triumph over the Nets at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford. The win came two nights after an excruciating, foul-filled 108-101 decision against the Knicks at Capital Centre.
For Washington, however, the operative word was win. The games provided the Bullets with their first victories of the season, something the team sorely needed, particularly in light of its upcoming schedule. Tuesday night is the first of back-to-back games against the Bulls. On Thursday, Washington will travel to Portland for the first of a four-game Western Conference swing.
Besides the Trail Blazers, the Bullets will play Seattle, Utah and the Los Angeles Clippers. Upon returning, Washington will meet the Detroit Pistons, who embarrassed them in the first round of last season's playoffs.
The two games against Chicago will represent a major change from last weekend's contests against New York and New Jersey, two teams that have struggled offensively since the start of the season.
In guard Michael Jordan, the Bulls have the most proficient offensive player in the NBA. Last year Jordan became the second player in NBA history to score over 3,000 points in a season; in the Bulls' five games so far he's averaged more than 33 points a game and is once again leading the league.
According to Jordan and the Bulls, that's not exactly planned. The idea for the team this season is to spread the wealth and not rely so much on Jordan's one-man acrobatics.
The Bulls have been successful so far. Forward Charles Oakley is the NBA's leading rebounder and rookies Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant have added much needed depth and talent to run with Jordan.
In fact, were it not for a mental lapse in the closing seconds of last Saturday night's game against the Indiana Pacers, Chicago would join Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers as the only undefeated teams in the NBA.
With the possible exception of the Clippers, who have five rookies playing under former Bullets' Coach Gene Shue, the Bullets won't have the luxury in their upcoming games of going against teams more disjointed than themselves. That was definitely the case last weekend. Both New York and New Jersey were winless when they played Washington, which struggled to gain its first wins of the season.
The Bullets aren't as talent-starved as the Knicks or as injury-riddled as the Nets. Their problem is one of unfamiliarity, a team equation that became more addled when starting forward Terry Catledge sat out both weekend games with a jammed neck and point guard Tyrone Bogues missed most of the New Jersey game with a strained left forearm.
Catledge remains doubtful for Tuesday night's game. Bogues, however, said he was hopeful he'd be able to play against the Bulls. Besides their inexperience playing together, the injuries have only further tested Coach Kevin Loughery's juggling skills.
"We're going to have to start putting stuff in for different lineups. You can't run the same offense for every player," he said. "It's gonna take a while to get to know everyone but we're hanging in there. Some of our people shoot it well but they don't play defense; we have to figure all that out."