Bulls show Bullets how the other half plays Chicago may be better than last year

December 16, 1991|By Alan Goldstein

Class distinction in the NBA was never more clearly defined than Saturday night at the Capital Centre, where the Chicago Bulls coasted to a 113-100 victory over the Washington Bullets.

The Bulls, 18-3 and winners of 17 of their past 18 games, appear even stronger than last season's championship team.

Competing in a weakened Eastern Conference, they could threaten to break the league's 69-victory record set by the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who featured Hall of Famers Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.

The Bullets, 6-16 and losers of their past seven, must be wondering when they will ever win another game. They are facing a four-game road trip, including three in Texas against Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, where they have seldom had success.

Surprisingly, Wes Unseld's injury-riddled team has won twice as many games on the road (four) as at home this season, with the laid-back Capital Centre fans more likely to root for the visiting team.

That was certainly the case Saturday night, when the vast majority of the fans in the 18,756 sellout crowd cheered for Bulls superstar Michael Jordan, who, despite early foul trouble, scored 29 points. He capped his performance with a spectacular dunk off an alley-oop pass on an out-of-bounds play.

The Bulls, with their intricate triple-post offense and crisp passing, shot 50 percent, and the Bullets needed a late flurry to shoot 43 percent after making six of 17 shots in the third quarter, when the game slipped away.

Scoring 100 was a minor victory for the Bullets, who had been averaging 90.3 over the previous three games.

Through all the losses and injuries, Unseld has had to grin and bear it.

The coach even found a bit of dark humor in Saturday's setback when center Pervis Ellison, getting adjusted to playing again after missing four games with a sore left knee, forgot to don his uniform shirt.

Unseld had signaled the center into the game to replace Charles Jones late in the first quarter, but Ellison had to retreat to the dressing room to retrieve his shirt. Ultimately, he regained his composure and finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

"I've been in the NBA since 1968," said Unseld, a former Bullets center, "and I've seen two things happen this year that I've never seen before. Ellison's shirt is one of them, and earlier this year, Harvey Grant put on his red road uniform when we were playing at home. Sometimes, you can only wonder."

Unseld is wondering when, if ever, he will have a full contingent of players. Rookie guard LaBradford Smith, the No. 1 draft pick, is still on the injured list with a sprained ankle, while Grant, the team's third-best scorer, has missed the past two games with a sore lower back.

Grant, averaging 19.2 points and 6.5 rebounds, hopes to rejoin the team for the road trip starting tomorrow.

Point guard Michael Adams has played despite a dislocated finger on his left hand that has hampered his shooting and ball handling. He has made 18 of his last 69 shots while his average has dipped to 22.7 after hovering around 30 points the first few weeks.

"I can't get discouraged," said Unseld. "Everything will take care of itself if we ever get everyone healthy and playing together again."

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