LANDOVER -- The Phoenix Suns gave an overpowering preview of "How The West Was Won" at the Capital Centre last night, sending the Washington Bullets reeling to their eighth straight loss, 117-91.
For the first time this season, the Bullets heard the catcalls of the hometown fans, or, at least those among the crowd of 15,311 who stayed around after the Suns gained a 22-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.
The Suns (41-19), who are considered strong title contenders after losing to the Portland Trail Blazers in last year's conference finals, won their fifth straight and fourth in a row on this road trip.
They dominated the free-falling Bullets in every phase of the game -- shooting, passing and particularly rebounding, where they enjoyed an overwhelming 64-40 advantage. The Bullets, who were losing their fifth straight at home, have not been overpowered in such fashion since the Philadelphia 76ers enjoyed a similar 24-rebound advantage on Nov. 16 at The
For most of the game, it appeared to be Pervis Ellison (12 rebounds) against the world as he competed valiantly against the likes of agile Suns centers Andrew Lang and Mark West and active forwards Xavier McDaniel and Tom Chambers.
NTC With usually capable rebounders John Williams and Darrell Walker still trying to recover from knee injuries, the Bullets were outmanned on the boards.
But rebounding was not the only phase of the game in which the Bullets' inadequacies were underlined. As coach Wes Unseld said: "We can't run without the ball, but I don't think there was one particular point where we lost the game. It was a progression where we would do some good things, but then turn around and do too many bad things to get back in the game."
Unseld made it quite clear that the Bullets, as constituted, simply lack the talent to compete against elite NBA teams like the Suns, who put six players in double figures, led by shooting guard Jeff Hornacek and rookie forward Cedric Ceballos, who scored 20 each.
Said Unseld: "Some of our problems aren't correctable. I know that looking at what we have and what other teams have, we're going to continue have problems, such as rebounding. But we have to make up with hustle."
Hustle seemed to carry them through the first half of the season when the Bullets were in the thick of the playoff fight. But they seemed to capitulate early last night.
Bernard King (26 points), Ellison and Haywoode Workman pulled Washington to within 72-66 with five minutes left in the third quarter. But the Suns then went on a 16-4 tear for an 86-70 cushion, and the Bullets never drew closer than 16 the rest of the way.
The Suns, of course, have been beating a lot of teams of late.
"My greatest danger is over-coaching this team," coach Cotton Fitzsimmons said. "A coach or manager always wants everything, but I have a lot to like about this team.
"We have a lot of weapons. In past years, teams would double or triple Kevin Johnson or Chambers. Now they can't do it, because they can also get burned by [Xaxier] McDaniel, Hornacek and Ceballos. I can use Ceballos to give Chambers a blow without hurting our offense. Same with Majerle in the backcourt. Dan reminds me of a young [former Celtics star] John Havlicek."
But last night, all the Suns looked like Hall of Famers to the struggling Bullets, who can hardly catch their breath before tackling the Los Angeles Lakers tonight.