MIAMI, NOV. 2 -- The front office-types of the Miami Heat wore tuxedos for the team's home opener tonight, a growing tradition here. But there was nothing elegant about the Washington Bullets, who showed up as the proverbial brown shoes in a 119-95 Miami rout in front of a sellout 15,008.
The Bullets (0-1) knew coming in they were the only team in the league that hadn't won a preseason game. But they said not to read too much into those games, because they were evaluating young talent. Okay.
What about tonight? Granted, the Bullets played without Pervis Ellison, who couldn't warm up his sprained ankle after extended opening-night ceremonies. He went back to the locker room, only to return in street clothes. And Washington had none of the zip that had been a part of its last three exhibition games.
"Where I thought we had the biggest letdown was not where one would suspect it would come from," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "I thought it actually came from a couple of veterans more than it came from the rookies. Rookies I expect to have problems."
He didn't single anyone out, but there are only six veterans left on the team. Tom Hammonds, recovering from a foot injury, barely played. Bernard King did what he could with 18 points and 10 assists. Charles Jones had 10 rebounds and three blocks. Darrell Walker, playing for the first time since Oct. 14, had eight rebounds in 23 minutes before running out of gas.
Harvey Grant was six of 17 from the floor, scoring 14 points, and looked tentative offensively throughout the night. Mark Alarie was five of 12 from the floor for 12 points, with six rebounds, in 24 minutes, as Washington felt the brunt of not having Ellison, John Williams and Ledell Eackles in the lineup.
"We didn't have much intensity, and it showed up," Grant said.
"I thought we'd be a little more ready," Walker said. "We missed a lot of open shots. We're young. We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of turnovers. I made some. But even I expected a better effort than that. I know I wasn't going to be out there the whole game but the guys had a good, hard training camp, even though we didn't win any games in preseason. We always play well here. I thought we would not get beat like this. We can't come out and play like this."
The Heat (1-0) got some good signs for their third year of existence. Willie Burton, the first-round pick from Minnesota, scored 25 points and led an 11-0 run late in the third period that made a 75-71 game into a 15-point laugher.
Miami center Rony Seikaly was in foul trouble most of the night, but still had 22 points and 11 rebounds. Sherman Douglas added 21 points and eight assists. Miami pounded Washington all night (a 58-48 rebounding edge) and it showed in a 41-23 advantage at the foul line.
The victory pleased the Heat players, but they realized the Bullets aren't one of the better teams in the league.
"We're not one of the better teams in the league," Douglas said. "Any win is an accomplishment for us."
As expected, the Bullets started free agents Haywoode Workman and Larry Robinson in the backcourt. Robinson had 13 points in 23 minutes on six-of-14 shooting. Workman had nine points in 22 minutes. Both were plagued with foul trouble most of the night. Rookie A. J. English was five of 14 from the floor, scoring 10 points.
Said Robinson: "I think it was a combination of the beginning of the season and everyone wanting to do so much, do the right thing, when we all should just relax and do what we can do. When you look at us in practice, and the way we go over everything, and it's going so smooth, it looks like we're ready for the playoffs."
Actually, after shooting .409 the first half, the Bullets were fortunate to be down just 54-46. They whittled at Miami for most of the third, and looked as if they were going to make a run with a spurt featuring Alarie and rookie Greg Foster, which got them within four with 2:04 left in the quarter.
Enter Burton, who had come along nicely for Miami in the preseason, averaging 11.7 points in seven games. He posted up for a basket, and Glen Rice (13 points) came up with a steal at the other end, starting a fast break that rookie Alec Kessler ended with a basket and foul at 1:22. He missed the free throw, but Burton put in the miss, and Miami was up, 81-71.
Then, English threw an ill-advised cross-court pass. Burton took it and threw down a vicious dunk over English, who fouled him, and the deficit was 13. Kessler ended the spurt with a free throw with 32 seconds left in the quarter, and that was that.
"We had it down to four or five," Unseld said, "and then, a couple of bad passes, a couple of shots that were makeable by the person who took them."
By the end, journeymen like the Heat's Terry Davis had 12 rebounds. Washington shot .404 for the game and had 23 turnovers. In the Washington locker room afterward, one of the younger players observed, "don't get down. It's a long season." How true.
Bullets Notes: The Bullets started Charles Jones at center. . . The home opener with the Bulls at Capital Centre is a sellout . . . English is going to be featured on an upcoming segment of NBC's "Inside Stuff" magazine show.