INDIANAPOLIS, MARCH 4 -- Tempers were short throughout much of tonight's game between the Washington Bullets and Indiana Pacers. In fact, more often than not, it seemed that giving someone a piece of your mind -- or getting a piece of someone underneath the backboards -- was more important than simply playing basketball.
In another of a recent series of powerful efforts, all-star center Moses Malone scored 27 points and grabbed 18 rebounds to lead the Bullets to a 95-88 victory.
The victory, Washington's fifth straight overall, improved its record to 24-32. In addition, it was the team's fourth consecutive road win and marked the first time in nine games this season that the Bullets have scored fewer than 100 points and won.
"Yeah, they tried to play a physical game, tried to alter us and get into a power game," said Washington forward John Williams. "But they didn't know. We've got one of the best in the business at that -- Moses Malone."
It was also the first time since October 1984 that Washington has won at Market Square Arena, losing seven games in the interim. It was fitting that Malone, who'd averaged more than 26 points and 13 rebounds during the Bullets' previous four games, was the architect of tonight's triumph, given the oft-brutal nature of the game. Making a statement with his play, Malone did not comment after the game.
"I thought they were trying to be intimidating," said Washington Coach Wes Unseld. "I think that's the line on us -- push us around and we'll back down, play one-on-one and give up."
There were few pretty plays tonight from either side -- as the Bullets' 39 percent mark from the field and the Pacers' 43 percent effort would attest. However, there was a strangling defensive front by the Bullets, who held Indiana (29-28) to just two baskets (both in the last 30 seconds) and eight total points in the final 6:17 of the game. The Pacers had five in double figures but none scored more than Chuck Person's 13.
Indiana forward Herb Williams got an offensive rebound basket to tie the game at 80 with 6:17 remaining. From there, the game was effectively dominated by 5-foot-4 guard Tyrone Bogues, who harangued the Pacers' attempts to work the ball up the floor and came up with two of his season-high seven steals.
"He won the game with his energy and enthusiasm, we didn't have anyone to match him," said Indiana Coach Jack Ramsay. "We were not tough -- if we'd played hard, we'd have won."
By the end of the game, everything had fallen apart for Indiana. The Pacers converted 18 of their first 19 free throws, then missed five of their last nine.
Perhaps the Pacers were still intent on proving their toughness to Washington. At one point, Ramsay received a technical foul for his incessant harping at referees Wally Rooney and Steve Javie. Away from the ball on another occasion, Person, tired of Bogues' thievery, took a swat at the guard's head.
"They were always trying to be physical but we didn't back down," said guard Jeff Malone. "I think it took them out of their game."
Rebounding is one of the truest signs of toughness, and on that scale there was no comparison. Washington held a 51-45 edge, with 20 offensive boards leading to 22 points.
"We're beginning to play with confidence, and because of that we're winning some games, even on the road," said Terry Catledge.