SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- It had the makings of a much-needed holiday gift for the Washington Bullets, facing a Sacramento Kings team that had lost eight straight at home and had totaled five wins going into last night.
But fate was not in a giving mood. First, the Bullets had travel problems, flying out of Los Angeles on Tuesday night for a scheduled one-hour flight but not reaching their hotel until 6:30 a.m. Next, point guard Michael Adams, who started the first 24 games, fell ill with an upper respiratory infection that forced him to miss his first game of the season.
Then, the Sacramento Kings lowered the boom, crushing the Bullets, 114-88, before a sellout crowd of 17,317 at the Arco Arena. Washington and Sacramento are tied with the second-worst record in the NBA, with the streaking Dallas Mavericks (2-23) gaining ground with their win over the Minnesota Timberwolves last night.
It began as a terrible day for the Bullets who, after their loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, were supposed to take an 11:30 p.m. charter to Sacramento -- a flight that takes a little more than an hour.
Instead, bad weather in Sacramento caused the plane to be diverted to Oakland, about a 90-minute drive away. After waiting more than an hour to get a bus the team began the drive -- only to be delayed by the massive accident just west of Sacramento that shut down both sides of Interstate 80. Diverted through the icy and foggy road conditions, the Bullets didn't arrive at their hotel until about 6:30 a.m.
"It was terrible," guard Brent Price said of the trip. "It was supposed to take an hour, and it took [seven]. I slept all day."
Then, just before game time, it was announced that Adams would not be playing because of an upper respiratory infection. Adams, who dressed for the game but was in obvious pain, was given some antibiotics by Kings physician Dr. Jeff Tanji. That left the point-guard duties in the hand of Doug Overton, who hadn't started a game since Dec. 13, 1992, and was averaging only 10.7 minutes going into last night.
"When you lose your starting point guard, it can't help," coach Wes Unseld. "It's hard without him."
With Overton at the point, the Bullets were able to go into the second quarter trailing by just 26-21 despite just nine of Sacramento's 11 first-quarter field goals being scored on layups.
In the second quarter, the Bullets made just two field goals the first 11 minutes. Sacramento opened its biggest lead of the half, 46-29, after a free throw by Mitch Richmond with 3:36 left.
"It was the defense," Overton said of his team's problems. "They got shots from wherever they wanted. We didn't do a good job getting on them defensively."
Pete Chilcutt scored Sacramento's first three field goals of the second half, helping the Kings to a 54-38 lead in the opening minutes.
But the Bullets rallied and, after a dunk by Rex Chapman with 4:37 left, Washington pulled within 61-55 and silenced the crowd.
After a timeout Sacramento, scored five of its next six field goals on layups and closed the quarter with a 19-4 run that, after Walt Williams three-pointer at the buzzer gave Sacramento an 80-59 lead going into the final quarter.
"We made a run at them and got to within six and before I knew it the lead was up to 19," Chapman said. "I think we expended so much energy trying to get the lead back that we couldn't get over the hump. They played a good game."
Mitch Richmond scored 22 points and Williams, a former University of Maryland star, added 16 for Sacramento. LaBradford Smith, playing in his first game against his former teammates, scored 15 points.
Tom Gugliotta scored 18 and Brent Price added a season-high 15 for the Bullets, who didn't have a single player with more than six rebounds.
Unseld would not attribute his team's play to the travel problems.
"Those are just excuses," Unseld said. "If you lose, that's an excuse and I'm not going to make excuses."