On a night when both teams looked tired, when the shots didn't fall and the fast breaks fell apart, the differences between the Washington Bullets and Chicago Bulls were a bounce here and a bounce there.
And for another night, the team Bullets fans weren't rooting for got most of them. The Bulls got 30 points from Michael Jordan and 24 rebounds from Charles Oakley to beat the Bullets for the second time in as many nights, this time by 84-82, before 13,721 at Capital Centre.
John Williams led the Bullets, who shot 36 percent from the field, with 17 points, but what scoring there was was balanced: Bernard King had 16, Jeff Malone 12 and Moses Malone 11 (one field goal, seven missed shots).
The loss drops the Bullets to 2-5 at a bad time, when they're about to leave on a four-game West Coast swing to Portland, Seattle, Utah and Los Angeles (Clippers).
Meanwhile, the Bulls pushed their record to 6-1, and with Jordan and a big, strong front line fitting together nicely, they look like the latest Eastern challenger to the Boston Celtics' throne.
"It wasn't a pretty game, but at the end of the year, it'll look like another win," Bulls Coach Doug Collins said. "With back-to-back games, it's like a playoff situation, and it's a great win to get."
When the Bullets peel away the layers of this latest loss, they'll find a dozen places to be concerned. One is at point guard where rookie Muggsy Bogues continues in a rookie shooting slump. Tonight, he attempted only two shots -- both open jumpers -- and missed both. He ended up playing only 20 minutes as Kevin Loughery used Darrell Walker, Jeff Malone and Frank Johnson in the fourth quarter.
Loughery refused to speculate on a lineup change last night, but left little doubt he'd be considering one before Friday's game at Portland.
"He's having real trouble shooting the ball," Loughery said of Bogues. "They're going to let him shoot it, and he's going to have to prove he can drill it. But it wasn't just him. We had seven errors out of that position in the first half, and it was more than Muggsy."
Still, even with those problems and with King, Moses Malone and Jeff Malone going 11 for 37 from the field, the Bullets almost won the game. They stayed close because Williams collected 14 rebounds to go with his 17 points and because Moses Malone (four) and Manute Bol (five) combined for nine blocked shots.
The Bullets led by three points with three minutes remaining, but missed five straight shots and failed to score on four straight possessions. Both Moses Malone and King missed open shots in this stretch.
"We had every opportunity to win it," Loughery said. "We have no one to blame but ourselves. We had the shots. We had the foul shots."
They also stayed in the game because the Bulls weren't much better for most of the night. They shot only 38 percent and were outscored from the foul line, 25-14. The difference was Jordan, who didn't make a field goal for the first 17 minutes, but still finished with his customary 30-point game. The difference was also Oakley, the 6-foot-9 forward who has developed into one of the NBA's fiercest rebounders (64 in the last three games).
Despite all of that, the Bullets led, 75-72, when Bol grabbed an offensive rebound and tossed it in with 3:10 remaining. Oakley scored on a drive on the other end to close it to 75-74. Moses Malone missed for the Bullets, and Jordan hit two foul shots to give the Bulls the lead to keep -- 76-75. King then missed an open jumper, and Jordan hit from 20 feet.
"Jordan basically took over the game," Loughery said. "We double-teamed him and had people in the right spot, but that's why he's one of the premier players in the game. We've just got to shoot the ball better. We must have missed 20 layups, and when you do that, it allows them to sag on your inside game."
Jeff Malone followed with a turnover, and a few seconds later, Jordan shoveled a pass to John Paxson, who threw in a 20-footer. King missed again, and Oakley's 24th rebound and two foul shots by Jordan clinched the victory.
"We've just got to do a better job of running the plays and finding the open man," Jeff Malone said. "We've got to open it up more. We had the shots tonight. All of us did. We lost as a team."
These same two teams had played a hard game at Chicago Stadium on Tuesday, and they paid the price tonight, the NBA's lowest-scoring game of the season. The Bulls led, 42-38, at the half and did it with Jordan not scoring from the field for the first 17 minutes.
He sat out the final four minutes of the first quarter and the first two of the second, then hit his first basket on a base-line jumper at the seven-minute mark and finished with a game-high 14 points for the half. That first one got the Bulls within a point, at 27-26.
And he was off. He hit two foul shots 29 seconds later for a 28-27 lead and totaled 12 points in a five-minute stretch. He threw in three more in the first five minutes of the third quarter, and every time the Bullets made a run, he was there again.
76ers 113, Pistons 109:
Maurice Cheeks scored 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter against Detroit in the Pontiac Silverdome to help Philadelphia break a three-game losing streak.
Cheeks made a three-point play to give the 76ers a 107-105 lead with 2:25 to play, then increased it to 109-105 with a jump shot with 2:00 to play.
Tim McCormick made one of two free throws and Charles Barkley, who finished with 29 points, added a field goal to give the 76ers a 112-107 advantage.
Isiah Thomas led the Pistons with 27 points, 13 coming in the third quarter. Thomas made two free throws and a field goal as Detroit outscored the 76ers, 8-4, during the final 2:54 of the period to pull within 85-83.
Vinnie Johnson had 20 for Detroit.
The 76ers nearly blew the game by missing eight of nine free throws in the final 1:12.
"They got a lot of points on offensive rebounds," Cheeks said. "Once we got some defensive rebounds we got our fast break going and I happened to be on the end of it."
SuperSonics 120, Trail Blazers 114:
In Seattle, Xavier McDaniel's dunk with 2:12 left in the game gave the SuperSonics a 109-108 lead and Seattle hung on. McDaniel finished with 32 points, and Dale Ellis and Tom Chambers each added 25 as Seattle sent Portland to its fifth straight loss, the longest losing streak for the Blazers since February 1986.
Kiki Vandeweghe led the Trail Blazers with a season-high 41 points.