LANDOVER -- The Portland Trail Blazers have not required outside help in compiling the best record in the National Basketball Association this season.
But last night at the Capital Center, the defending Western Conference champions were aided by three ejections en route to a 105-96 victory over the struggling Washington Bullets before 12,289.
In a two-minute stretch midway into fourth quarter, lead referee Steve Javie ejected Bullets starters Darrell Walker and Pervis Ellison and head coach Wes Unseld.
Even Hoops, the team mascot, got tossed while the Blazers continued to shoot free throws and technicals to take a 98-86 lead with 5 minutes, 31 seconds remaining. The Bullets never recovered as Portland (55-18) rolled to its eighth straight victory.
It marked Unseld's first ejection since taking over the Bullets on Jan. 3, 1988. It took four of his players and assistant coach Jeff Bzdelik to restrain him after he raced on the court to protest Ellison's ejection.
Unseld said he knew his ejection was inevitable, but he had been complaining almost the entire game about the imbalance in the fouls being called.
At the half, the Bullets were out-rebounding the bigger Blazers 26-15, but trailed, 50-48, because Portland had converted 16 free throws to Washington's three. It only got worse. By game's end, the Blazers enjoyed a 40-11 advantage at the foul line.
Unseld said: "Let me put it this way. we're not supposed to win, and they are. They [the officials] should have let the game be played. The players should always decide it, but there is nothing I can do about it now."
Before losing their composure in the fourth quarter, the Bullets (27- 46) had proved surprisingly competitive. With Ellison (17 points, 11 rebounds) and forwards John Williams (24 points) and Harvey Grant (19 points) attacking the basket aggressively, Washington led, 81-80, with less than 11 minutes to play.
Then everything turned sour. Portland rolled to a 91-83 advantage, when Walker, who has been tossed twice before by Javie, was ejected with 6 minutes, 51 seconds left.
"Darrell is a very competitive guy, and he expects the referees to call it both ways," said Bullets forward John Williams. "Buck Williams got a call on one end, and on the next play, I drove to the hoop and three of the Blazers jumped at me, and no one blew a whistle. That's when Darrell exploded, but you've got to put it behind you and try to keep your focus."
But Ellison's ejection 74 seconds later drew the ire of Unseld and the crowd.
Blazers center Kevin Duckworth broke free underneath for a layup and Ellison was whistled for a foul. The replays indicated that Ellison grabbed the ball with his left hand and tossed it to referee Bill Spooner, who said nothing. But Javie came racing in from midcourt and hit Ellison with a technical and also pointed him to the dressing room.
Exit Ellison. Enter Unseld. After a minute of jaw-to-jaw jousting with Javie, exit Unseld, quickly followed by the team mascot.
"I never said a word to Javie," Ellison said. "I threw the ball right to Spooner, and he caught it. And then Javie came running over, and I was gone. A basketball game shouldn't be determined by the officials.
"Portland is a very physical team-physical, but not dirty. We also played hard, but they got all the calls."
Javie said he would not comment on the three ejections until he had filed a report with NBA director of operations Rod Thorn.
Oh yes, the game. The Blazers, leading the Pacific Division, got their usual floor balance. All five starters finished in double figures, led by Clyde Drexler's 23 points.
The Blazers took the commotion in stride. "We flourish in these kind of situations," said power forward Buck Williams (14 points, 10 rebounds). "We just raised our game a notch."
Added small forward Jerome Kersey, "It's about time we got a break."
?3 It almost makes you feel sorry for the Blazers.