LANDOVER -- The Portland Trail Blazers have not needed much help in compiling the National Basketball Association's best record this season, but the Washington Bullets might say Portland got a big assist from the officials last night in its 105-96 victory.
The Bullets, before 12,289, had complained loudly over the number of fouls that the Blazers (40-11) shot. It led to the fourth-quarter ejections of starters Darrell Walker and Pervis Ellison, with Bullets head coach Wes Unseld soon following them to the dressing room.
Washington (27-46) had overcome the foul-line inequity to lead 81-80 early in the fourth quarter, but all the technicals and disorder created by the referees proved insurmountable.
It added up to an eighth straight victory for the Blazers (55-18), who had all five starters in double figures, led by Clyde Drexler's 23 points.
The Blazers, who led the Pacific Division by 2 1/2 games over the Los Angeles Lakers, were tied with the Chicago Bulls for the NBA's best record.
After winning the Western Conference title last season, the Blazers have earned the respect of opponents and their fans.
"Things are different now," said Portland coach Rick Adelman. "We're kind of a marked team. People know us now. We go places and there are sellouts or near sellouts. Being from where we are, we're not used to this attention. We were never on national television much until making it to the finals last June."
The Blazers believe they will better be prepared if they make it to the finals again this year.
"We played hard, but the added experience really helped Detroit last year and they knew how to handle things," said Clyde Drexler, the team's scoring leader. "If we get another chance, we'll be there to take care of business."
But it was the Bullets who appeared more business-like in the opening minutes. With Harvey Grant contributing seven points, Washington moved to a 13-10 lead.
Pervis Ellison was playing aggressively on both ends of the floor, rebounding strongly and then jamming home shots on the offense to keep the home team ahead, 19-16.
The Bullets' offense was unusually fluid as John Williams made a pair of layups. But the outside shooting of Kevin Duckworth and Jerome Kersey produced a 23-23 tie for Portland. Two straight fast breaks gave the Blazers a 27-25 edge after one quarter.
After Ellison was forced to the bench with a second foul, Drexler began attacking the basket. The acrobatic All-Star guard scored three baskets to increase Portland's lead to 35-27.