The Washington Bullets enjoyed an opportunity last night to do a number of things previously unseen from men in Bullets uniforms at Capital Centre this NBA season, things like shake-and-bake, freewheeling basketball. And that led to two more firsts: Coach Kevin Loughery inserting players into the game while on the front end of a blowout and his team winning a second consecutive game at home, a 109-96 decision over the Chicago Bulls.
There probably were few in the crowd of 14,353 who expected some of these weirder happenings, although the pairing of two referees named Ed Rush (Ed F. and Ed T.) for the game might have been an omen.
That was only slightly more unlikely than Bullets forward Mark Alarie, who played a total of four minutes in the previous four games, becoming a major contributor with 10 points in 19 minutes, or Frank Johnson, averaging 2.6 assists per game coming in, making 11 assists in three quarters. Or the Bullets shooting a powerful .567 from the field.
And yet, all of that and more happened last night. Unfortunately for Washington, there was also an injury. Darrell Walker sprained his right ankle in the second quarter, missing the rest of the game. Afterward, the 6-foot-4 guard was using crutches.
Improving their record to 8-14 (6-6 in their last 12 games), the Bullets got 28 points from Bernard King, 20 from Moses Malone and 15 from Terry Catledge. And with Tyrone Bogues close behind Johnson with nine, Washington had a season-high 37 assists.
"Our unselfishness was the key to the game," said Loughery. "We moved the ball, kept it hopping. It was fun to watch. That's the best we've played in two seasons."
Michael Jordan, the NBA's leading scorer, had 30 points to lead Chicago (15-8), but Scottie Pippen, usually one of Jordan's main running mates, had what would charitably be described as a tough night.
Besides being scorched by King's front-court offense, the 6-foot-7 Pippen was victimized by 5-3 Bogues in the back court, when, playing point guard, he was stripped of the ball three times by his fellow rookie. Another time, Pippen tried to post up Bogues near the lane but found himself pushed to the floor by the diminutive player.
"We got off to a sluggish start and played uphill all night," said Bulls Coach Doug Collins. "Our concentration was poor. We never even challenged them tonight."
The Bullets took a 10-2 lead and were up, 11-6, before Jordan made his first points, on a driving layup.
When the Bullets, with Moses Malone having delivered 10 points, took a 28-25 lead into the second quarter, it marked the second time in its 22 games Washington has been ahead after 12 minutes. The score was 38-34 with 7:26 remaining in the first half when Walker crashed into the stands after scoring on a driving layup.
At the time, all-star guard Jeff Malone was available from the bench but Loughery called for Alarie, who before a four-minute stint against Boston on Tuesday, had not played since Dec. 8.
"It's the first time I'd heard my name called in a while. I was pretty surprised," he said. The last time he played more than 12 minutes was Nov. 25 against the Clippers in Los Angeles.
"Getting in at the end of a blowout is a terrible way to get your playing time. Tonight was different, I could come in and be aggressive."
Alarie's rebound basket with 4:23 left in the half completed an 8-0 run that gave the Bullets a 48-38 margin.
Washington held a 54-49 halftime lead, then steadily took control of the game in the third quarter, increasing its advantage to 85-74 going into the fourth.
Jordan scored seven points in the third period, including one impressive dipsy-do layin but that was more than countered by the Bullets' 56 percent shooting. Of Washington's 31 points in the period, 21 came from 10 feet or less or on free throws after being fouled in the act of shooting.
"We had lots of opportunities for easy baskets," said Moses Malone, who in a real rarity never was given a trip to the foul line in 38 minutes of action as the referees Rush awarded the Bullets only nine free throws all told.
"That's how you've got to play the game," Malone said. "When you have lots of offensive weapons like we have, you've got to flip the ball around. If you stand around and keep watching one guy, you get in trouble."
In stretching their lead to 18 points in the final period, the Bullets had just two baskets on which no assist was credited. One was by King, who continued where he left off in Thursday's 32-point performance in the Bullets' 115-111 overtime victory over Indiana.
Last night, his final point total was lost on Loughery, who was even more animated than usual on the sideline, this time in praise of his team's ball movement.
"I have no idea who scored what," said the coach, who chuckled when told of his team's assist total. "Some games we don't even get half that." CHICAGO Min FG FT R A PF T Grant 17 2-6 0-0 4 1 3 4 Oakley 42 5-10 3-3 16 3 3 13 Gilmore 12 2-3 0-0 2 0 4
Steals -- Chicago 5 (Jordan 3), Washington 10 (Bogues 5). Turnovers -- Chicago 18 (Oakley, Pippen 5), Washi
Attendance -- 14,353.