PORTLAND, ORE., NOV. 20 -- Thus far in the young NBA season, there has been a sameness in the play of the Washington Bullets: a slow start, born of poor shooting and compounded by poorer rebounding. There's also usually a second-half flurry that falls short.
Tonight at the Coliseum, the Bullets followed their script to perfection and lost their third consecutive game, 120-101, to the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Bullets (2-6) dug a hole for themselves by hitting just 35 percent from the field in the opening two quarters to fall behind, 63-50. The visitors didn't get any closer in the final two periods. Ahead by 86-72 entering the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers steadily pulled away, breaking a five-game losing streak in the process.
Guard Clyde Drexler led the winners with 32 points. Jeff Malone had 22 for the Bullets. Washington will face the Seattle SuperSonics Saturday night at the Coliseum.
"Shooting and rebounding. They got 31 points off the offensive boards and 44 from the fast break -- a lot of those were due to our poor shooting," said Bullets Coach Kevin Loughery. "We might make some changes . . . we have to sit down and decide. There are a lot of people on this team that we have to get to know.
"I think the game tonight turned in the second quarter. There was a stretch where we never scored and they were able to get some easy points on the break."
After Tuesday's 84-82 loss to the Chicago Bulls, Loughery spoke of perhaps changing the team's lineup. That didn't happen, however. The Bullets started their usual lineup of Bernard King and John Williams at forward, Moses Malone at center and Jeff Malone and rookie Tyrone Bogues at guard.
Williams was starting in place of Terry Catledge, who didn't make the trip because of an injured neck. Portland was playing without high-scoring forward Kiki Vandeweghe, who sat out the game with back spasms.
Vandeweghe would have been matched up against King. In his absence, the Washington forward went against Jerome Kersey and scored the visitors' first six points.
With 6:40 remaining in the opening quarter, the Trail Blazers were on top, 12-10. Besides King, Jeff and Moses Malone had two points each for the Bullets. Center Steve Johnson had six points for Portland, Drexler four.
With two minutes remaining, the score was 25-20, Portland. Kersey had four points for the Trail Blazers, as did forward Caldwell Jones, the older brother of Washington forward Charles Jones. At that time, Darrell Walker and Manute Bol came in for Bogues and Moses Malone.
At the end of the quarter, the Trail Blazers led, 33-26, the team gaining most of that advantage after three consecutive turnovers by Washington. King led all scorers with 10 points and Moses Malone had seven. Johnson and reserve center Kevin Duckworth had six each for Portland, which hit 60 percent of its field goal attempts in the period.
The home team increased its lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter. Kersey hit a jumper and Johnson added another six points, including a windmill dunk over Bol to help increase Portland's lead to 41-28 with 9:43 to play in the half.
"Steve Johnson played well tonight, which we needed against this team," said Portland Coach Mike Schuler. "We planned for this game by keying on their big men and it worked."
Johnson's dunk prompted Loughery to call time out. Reserve forward Mark Alarie scored for the Bullets after play resumed, but guard Terry Porter hit a layup and Johnson added another point after being fouled by Bol, his third personal of the game. He was replaced a short time later by Charles Jones.
With just five minutes remaining in the half, the Bullets had scored just eight points in the quarter.
By halftime, Washington had knocked four points off a 17-point deficit, but still trailed, 63-50. Jeff Malone had 13 points for Washington, Moses Malone 12 and King 10. Johnson had 13 for Portland.
"I don't know why we start so slow," Williams said. "We have to come out of the blocks fired up. We're digging holes for ourselves. We're able to come back later on but if we could put two good halves together we'd be better off. It's hard to point a finger though at what it is that's wrong."
76ers 116, Celtics 85:
Charles Barkley scored 22 points and Cliff Robinson 21 as Philadelphia handed Boston, playing without Larry Bird for the second straight game, its worst defeat at the Spectrum since October 1966.
David Wingate scored 14 points for Philadelphia and Barkley grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
Pistons 131, Warriors 108:
In Detroit, Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson scored 19 points each and Adrian Dantley had 18 to defeat Golden State.
Golden State (1-8), which played without injured starters Joe Barry Carroll and Larry Smith, suffered its fifth straight loss and six straight road defeat. Rod Higgins had 22 points and Chris Mullin 18 for Golden State. Eric Floyd added 16.
Bulls 94, Hawks 92:
Michael Jordan made two foul shots with 28 seconds left and finished with 33 points as Chicago beat visiting Atlanta.
Chicago, off to its best start, won for the seventh time in eight games this season. The last two victories have been by two points.
Dominique Wilkins led Atlanta with 36 points.
Jazz 112, Pacers 81:
In Salt Lake City, Karl Malone scored nine of his 30 points as Utah outscored Indiana, 21-4, during 7 1/2 minutes of the second and third periods en route to the victory.
Nuggets 156, Spurs 142:
Alex English scored 30 points, Danny Schayes 26 and Jay Vincent 25 as Denver, at home, routed San Antonio in the highest-scoring NBA game of the season.
Michael Adams, making his first Denver start, had 15 points and nine assists. Rookie Greg Anderson led the Spurs with 31 points.
Lakers 119, Mavericks 116:
Michael Cooper made three free throws in the final seven seconds as Los Angeles, at home, held off a Dallas rally to remain unbeaten in eight games.
Trailing by 114-102, the Mavericks outscored Los Angeles 12-2 to close within 116-114 on Mark Aguirre's two free throws with 18 seconds left.
SuperSonics 99, Bucks 97:
Nate McMillan scored off an offensive rebound at the buzzer and Seattle, at home, broke Milwaukee's three-game winning streak.
Milwaukee had won the previous six meetings against the SuperSonics during the previous three seasons.
Clippers 112, Suns 96:
Quintin Dailey, Mike Woodson and Michael Cage scored at least 20 points apiece, and Darnell Valentine had nine of his 12 in the fourth period as Los Angeles snapped a 21-game road losing streak in Phoenix.