Bernard King and Frank Johnson are staying home with injuries, but the rest of the Washington Bullets will be in Indianapolis tonight to nurse a road record against the Indiana Pacers that cries out for healing.
Johnson is still suffering from a bruised right knee. King is undergoing therapy for his strained lower back, which has caused him to miss five straight games.
But the Bullets are still in the playoff picture, and King will try to return to the lineup Saturday against Detroit, team spokesman Mark Pray said yesterday. That's no guarantee, though.
"It really depends on how he feels," Pray said.
King watched Wednesday night's 111-102 victory over the Pacers in his street clothes at Capital Centre. It was the Bullets' fourth straight victory, and the first time they beat a team with a winning record since Jan. 20. Good signs, all of them.
His return now appears imminent, although his back still is severely inflamed and he will not comment on when he might play.
Meanwhile, he is undergoing ultrasound and whirlpool treatments. If he is not ready for Saturday's game against Detroit at Capital Centre (7:30 p.m.), then he will have three more days to recuperate before the Bullets host Phoenix on Wednesday (7:30 p.m.).
The victory over the tired Pacers (29-27 overall) seems to be indicative of a general upswing in the Bullets' fortunes. But another road win, particularly over the Pacers in Market Square Arena, would make it even more convincing.
Although the Bullets have won their last three road games, those all came against teams with losing records.
The upward trend will have to continue if they are going to get the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
They are tied with Philadelphia and the New York Knicks for the eighth and final berth at 23-32 overall.
Indiana, however, has not been a place conducive to victories for the Bullets recently, or in the past for that matter.
They have have lost seven straight games there, and 11 of the last 16. They last beat the Pacers there March 31, 1985.
Overall, the Pacers are 19-8 at home. Although they have lost their last two straight there, prior to that they had won nine in a row, behind Chuck Person's 18.2 points a game.
Not that the Bullets haven't made a run at it. In their last visit on Dec. 2, they lost by 108-102.
If they can get another performance like they did Wednesday, the streak can be broken.
The Bullets led by 58-51 at halftime and extended that to 14 midway through the third quarter. Even without King and Johnson, six players were in double figures.
The one place the Bullets don't need help right now is at home. They have won 10 of their last 12 at Capital Centre.