LANDOVER -- So, maybe you expected 82-0? Not even the Washington Bullets expected that, but 3-0 they could have handled -- and nearly did.
It wasn't until Pervis Ellison's last-second jump shot from the top of the key bounced off the rim that the Bullets accepted their first loss of the season, 107-106, at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
"It was a good shot," said Ellison, who was not the man the play had been designed for. "I thought it was going to be good. It wasn't and we lost. But I don't think anyone in here feels like our bubble has burst."
The Sixers, pulling out their first win of the season, didn't have a pin sharp enough. What they had was Charles Barkley (33 points, 19 rebounds) and Johnny Dawkins (14 points, six assists) and together they managed to do a number on the Bullets' little big man, Michael Adams in the closing minutes, denying him the ball on the Bullets' last three possessions.
But for a third night in this young NBA season, the Bullets could feel good about their effort, though everything wasn't perfect. For instance:
* The bench, which had contributed mightily in the first two games, got only three points beyond Ledell Eackles' 22. Tom Hammonds and David Wingate didn't produce a point.
* As mentioned, Adams, who had 33 points, five rebounds and 15 assists, didn't touch the ball in the team's final three possessions, and the Bullets turned the ball over twice -- on a
three-second and a 24-second violation.
* The Bullets also allowed a 106-102 lead to disintegrate in the final 1:01, on a three-point play by Armon Gilliam (17 points) and layup by Hersey Hawkins (21 points).
But there were some very positive signs, too. In fact, coach Wes Unseld was basically pleased with what he saw and judging by the boisterous crowd of 11,730, it was too.
"It wasn't that we didn't play smart," said Unseld. "It was simply that we made a couple mistakes and several of our key people took shots and couldn't get them to go down. I was happy with the way we played."
One of the biggest positives was the Bullets' pressing defense in the second half. It forced the Sixers into three 24-second violations and virtually smothered the ball. And one of the hardest workers on the floor was Eackles.
"If we had won the game, I would have given Ledell the ball," said Adams, who at one point whipped the ball behind his back -- twice -- before sending a pinpoint pass to A.J. English for a running layup. "He was instant offense and his defense was tough.
"But as a group, we were pressing a little bit. We missed easy shots and fought back. But we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half and at the end. In the last 40 or 50 seconds, we didn't get a shot off."
Eackles scored a season-high 22 points. Ten of those came in the second half, when the Bullets were rallying from a deficit that reached nine at 70-61 with 8:14 to go in the third quarter.
"I'm playing defense," Eackles said. "That's the key to me staying in the game. I enjoyed being on the floor, getting minutes. As you know, in the past, if I can stay in the game, I'll get points. I've finally learned that playing defense is the key to it. If I play defense, I get to play."
Eackles got 24 minutes last night and said he felt good physically.
"My defense was giving me opportunities to score, too," he said. "The only problem was that we didn't capitalize on all our opportunities."
Tonight, the Bullets will try to do better in Orlando against the Magic.
"We're going to Orlando to get a victory," said Adams. "I expect us to win in Orlando. We're going to make up for this. We're going to be OK."