LANDOVER — LANDOVER -- As the popular beer commercial says: "Why ask why?" Coach Wes Unseld won't even try.
His enigmatic Washington Bullets, which recently lost at home to lottery-bound Dallas and Sacramento, played one of their finest games of the season last night in upsetting the contending Portland Trail Blazers, 114-102, before a sellout crowd of 18,756.
The Bullets (21-50), who were booed for uninspired efforts against the also-rans, received a standing ovation as they left the Capital Centre court last night.
And it was well deserved. Minus its two centers -- starter Pervis Ellison and understudy Charles Jones, both sidelined with knee injuries -- Washington was crushed on the boards, 51-31, with former Maryland star Buck Williams grabbing 19 rebounds for the Blazers.
But the resourceful Bullets offset their size disadvantage by shooting 52 percent from the field and getting 31 points on the fast-break opportunities that occurred when Portland failed to get an offensive rebound.
Almost everybody who played meaningful minutes contributed to the victory. All five starters, led by emergency center Tom Gugliotta's 21 points, scored in double figures. Rex Chapman added 17 points off the bench, and Unseld also got a strong relief job from just-acquired Mark Acres, the 6-foot-11 journeyman who scored 5 points and had four assists in 13 busy minutes.
Acres made consecutive layups off assists by Buck Johnson to provide a 99-87 cushion with six minutes left, and the weary Blazers (42-28), playing their fifth road games in seven nights, could draw no closer than 7 points the rest of the way.
"Those were isolation plays," said Acres, "and when the defense takes something away, you try to take advantage of it, and that's what happened on those two plays."
Most of all, Acres, a solid 225-pound athlete who spent five seasons with Boston and Orlando, provided some much needed bulk on defense and for setting picks.
Said Unseld: "For the few minutes Mark was out there, he did a good job. He clotted things up and showed he could pass out of the double-team."
Portland's hopes of staging a late rally were limited when All-Star guard Clyde Drexler re-injured his right hamstring in the first quarter and sat out the rest of the game.
But the Blazers did not use this as an excuse.
"They just worked harder than we did," said point guard Rod Strickland. "I don't know if we were sleeping on them or not, but they out-fought us, and when you start getting confident, anything can happen."
A good part of the Bullets' confidence came from the return of veteran playmaker Michael Adams, who missed two games while his wife gave birth to their first child. Adams provided 18 points and 11 assists in 44 minutes, and was the trigger man on most of Washington's fast breaks.
"Michael was the key because we had someone out there who had an idea how to run things," said Unseld.
The Bullets compiled 32 assists, a tribute to their excellent ball movement. One of the recipients was forward Larry Stewart, the former Coppin State star who scored 19 points, recorded seven rebounds and five assists.
"Larry was a lot more active than he's been recently," said Unseld. "He's been hiding a sore ankle, but tonight he was getting to the basket."
Stewart scored eight of his points when the Bullets broke away from a 56-56 halftime tie to gain an 88-81 lead. Portland closed to 89-83, but baskets by Adams and Johnson seemed to take the starch out of the Blazers.
"This was a big game for us as far as trying to get home-court advantage for the playoffs," said Blazers coach Rick Adelman. "But give them credit. They just took it away from us."
NOTES: Last night's game was the 17th sellout for the Bullets, setting a franchise record. The average attendance is 13,354, a rise of 1,241 per game over last year. Three Bullets celebrated birthdays yesterday: Jones (36), Ellison (26) and LaBradford Smith (24).