PHOENIX -- After the 114-95 loss to the Phoenix Suns, Washington Bullets guard Michael Adams sat in front of his locker with his head down. A question was asked, but for the longest time Adams didn't budge.
Finally, and without looking up, he spoke.
"Hopefully," Adams said, "we can get out of this rut and win a game."
The rut Adams spoke of was the recent play of the Bullets, who last night lost for the sixth straight time and dropped to six games under .500. Unlike the two previous road games against Seattle and Utah, the Bullets were blown out of this one.
Phoenix, the highest scoring team in the league, simply dominated the Bullets, building a 22-point lead in the first quarter on the way to its fourth straight win.
Charles Barkley had 22 points to lead six players in double figures, and added 12 rebounds in 27 minutes. But it was Kevin Johnson who was the big story, compiling a triple-double with a rare combination of 15 points, 13 assists and a franchise-record 10 steals. It was Johnson's first triple-double of the season.
"I've had a few [triple-doubles] in my career, but they're usually assists, points and rebounds," Johnson said. "That's the kind of Phoenix Suns basketball we're capable of playing, and we just have to be more consistent with that type of effort."
Surely, the Bullets are happy they only have to see that type of effort twice a season -- Washington will host Phoenix on May 9. As it is, Washington hasn't won here since 1988 and has dropped 11 straight games to the Suns.
Before a sellout crowd of 19,023, the Bullets, playing for the first time with Pervis Ellison and Larry Stewart on the team, were the victims of a 19-0 first-quarter run in which Barkley had a field day. Barkley scored eight points during the run, and at the end of the first quarter had 15 points and seven rebounds. Washington, shooting 33.3 percent in the opening quarter, trailed 36-15.
By halftime, Barkley had 22 points (10 of 13 from the field) and 10 rebounds -- more than the Washington starters who totaled 10 points and seven rebounds. Tom Gugliotta, one night after battling Utah Jazz forward Karl Malone, was 0-for-5 from the field and had just one rebound in nine first-half minutes while battling Barkley.
"We decided to do things a little differently this game with [Barkley] by not doubling and running people at him," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld. "They have so many good scorers that you just can't stop them all."
With a 70-43 halftime lead, Phoenix coach Paul Westphal paraded a couple of little used Joes -- Joe Kleine and Joe Courtney -- to start the second half. They contributed to Phoenix building its biggest lead, 83-50, after a Courtney layup with
8:22 left in the third quarter.
The Bullets did manage a mini-spurt at the end of the third quarter, going on a 10-0 run -- with six points from Gugliotta -- to trail 89-73 with 1:30 left. But Phoenix scored the last six points of the quarter.
"We just weren't ready to play," Unseld said. "I don't think we re
sponded that well."
Calbert Cheaney had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead the Bullets, and Mitchell Butler scored 12, but other than that there weren't a lot of positives. Washington turned the ball over 28 times (75 over the three-game trip), with 22 of those coming on Phoenix steals.
"They're an incredible team," Cheaney said. "They should win the NBA championship the way they're playing. They've just got so many weapons, we couldn't stop them."
Washington has had a hard time stopping anybody these days. For the 10th straight game an opponent has shot over 50 percent against the Bullets. Phoenix shot 53.4 percent from the field with Mark West the only starter not scoring in double figures.
It proved to be a brutal trip for the Bullets, who faced three of the top teams in the Western Conference in Seattle, Utah and Phoenix. The addition of Stewart (eight points in 18 minutes) and Ellison (six points in 23 minutes) was of little help.
Adams said playing against teams like the Suns is no excuse for how the Bullets have played.
"Obviously, you have to come ready to play with their guards," Adams said. "But the way we came out in the first quarter, we just stood around and watched."