LANDOVER -- Del Harris relinquished the head coaching reins at Milwaukee nine days ago because he thought his Bucks were under-achieving.
But the injury-depleted Washington Bullets made the Bucks look like world-beaters at the Capital Centre last night, as Milwaukee coasted to a 109-97 victory before a crowd announced at 7,213.
In losing their sixth straight, the Bullets dropped their record to 2-7 at home and 6-15 overall. Milwaukee, now 2-3 under new head coach Frank Hamblen, boosted its record to 10-12.
Former Bullet Moses Malone led the rout with 24 points and 19 rebounds. A. J. English led Washington with 22 points. Reserve center Ralph Sampson turned in his most encouraging performance, scoring six points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Before last night, the Bucks had won only one of four games
dTC under Hamblen. Harris is now a full-time general manager.
Hamblen and Harris blamed defensive deficiencies for the team's sluggish start. In their first 21 games, the Bucks had allowed the opposition to shoot a league-high 49 percent from the field.
"There has been a lack of commitment to team defense," Harris said. "Basically, we've got the same people as last year. In fact, with Frank Brickowski replacing [retired] Jack Sikma, we should be quicker up front. But guys just haven't been helping each other out."
The Bucks also lack new blood. Power forward Anthony Avent, their No. 1 draft pick from Seton Hall, opted to play in Europe, rejecting a five-year offer worth slightly more than $2 million.
Over the last three years, the only significant addition from the draft has been guard Jeff Grayer, their top selection in 1988. But a knee injury limited Grayer to 11 games his rookie year, and he has played a reserve role the past two seasons.
Wes Unseld had other concerns. Center Pervis Ellison tried his tender right knee before tip-off and was scratched. Forward Harvey Grant woke up yesterday with a sore back. He dressed, but did not start. Charles Jones and Tom Hammonds were promoted to starting roles.
Play was extremely sloppy in the first six minutes as both teams had trouble generating an offense. Thanks mainly to Malone, who scored two baskets and added an assist, the Bucks moved to an 11-7 lead. The Bullets made 3 of their first 11 shots, two by Hammonds.
Stewart started and ended a 6-0 run to push Washington on top. But the quick-handed Buck guards created a couple of turnovers to reclaim the lead, 17-15. The first period ended with Milwaukee in front, 24-21. Grayer led the scoring with nine points.
Getting beaten on the boards, Unseld tried a bigger lineup, teaming Greg Foster with Sampson up front.
Sampson blocked a shot by Grayer to start the second quarter. (( But Larry Krystkowiak made a jump shot and tip-in and Dale Ellis followed with consecutive hoops to boost the margin to 34-24.
Sampson showed signs of life with a slam dunk and two strong rebounds as the Bullets closed to 36-34 with a 10-2 spree. Malone interrupted the run with a short jumper, but English made consecutive jump shots and Hammonds converted two free throws to give Washington a 40-38 edge.
Malone tied it at 42 before Sampson made a spectacular flying stuff. But the Bucks regrouped and used Alvin Robertson's three-pointer and Brickowski's two foul shots to gain a 49-44 halftime advantage.
Malone took over the Bucks' offense to start the second half, scoring their first 5 points, including a fast-break layup, to increase the lead to 54-46.
After two baskets by Adams sliced the deficit in half, Ellis scored seven straight points for a 63-52 lead.
The Bullets had trouble getting off any kind of a shot, and the Bucks used a bonus free throw situation and two breakaway baskets for a 15-point lead.
With Milwaukee leading, 72-60, Sampson drew his fifth foul and was replaced by Foster. Washington pulled within 10 points, but Krystowiak answered with four straight points to give the visitors a 78-64 lead after three quarters.
The Bucks were breezing, 93-75, with 6 minutes left, and the slim crowd quickly dispersed.