LANDOVER -- It may not be as impressive as the streak of 14 games that the New York Knicks took into their game last night. But when you're the Washington Bullets, and you've lost as much as the team has this season, you take a winning streak any way you can.
With that in mind basketball was at least enjoyable last night for the Bullets, who defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, 104-96, before 12,117 at USAir Arena.
Enjoyable because now the word "streak" can follow the name of the Bullets on the sports wrap shows, with Washington posting its second straight win. The Bullets last put together a winning streak Jan. 11 to Jan. 15, when they beat the New Jersey Nets, the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Clippers. Since then the streaks have been of the losing variety -- six games here, four games there, and most recently a nine-game losing streak that was ended with Friday's win over the Boston Celtics. Washington (21-50) is now just one win off of last year's total, with 11 games remaining.
"I don't care if they're back-to-back games or back, and a day off, to back," Bullets coach Wes Unseld said. "As long as we're there to compete."
Competing was no problem against the young and overmatched Bucks, who fell to 19-52 and are last in the Central Division. Don MacLean scored 29 points and had 10 rebounds, and Brent Price added 19 for the Bullets, who won their second straight without Tom Gugliotta.
"We've just played teams that we can play with," Unseld said of the streak coming without his best rebounder. "We have a tough schedule ahead of us -- we need Tom back badly."
That schedule, with 11 games remaining, includes eight games against probable playoff teams (two each against the New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers, and one each against the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls). That leaves the Bullets no room for error as they try to surpass last season's 22-60 record.
"I hope we're able to win at least one of our next 11," said MacLean, when asked about reaching last year's record.
Last night's game was never really close after the Bucks drew to within six points with just less than four minutes left in the third quarter. By the fourth quarter the Bullets had built leads by as many as 18 points. Milwaukee pulled to within six points in the final minute, but the Bullets were not seriously threatened. Washington benefited from 56.7 percent shooting against a team whose field-goal percentage allowed was the third worst in the league going into last night (49.0 percent age). The Bullets were the worst in the league going into last night (50.8 percent), but limited the Bucks to 41.8 percent.
"We couldn't put the ball in the basket," Bucks' coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Our bench struggled [12 points], and they made a couple of runs at our bench. We couldn't close the gap on them."
Which is why the Bullets were able to survive a game in which they turned the ball over 29 times (Milwaukee guard Eric Murdock had a season-high nine steals). Washington won a rare rebounding battle (44-39), taking advantage of a Milwaukee front line in which Baker, a rookie, plays center.
Point guard Michael Adams, who missed 11 games while he was on the injured list, returned. Adams, who was activated for Friday's game in Boston but didn't play, scored six points in 20 minutes.