LANDOVER -- It wasn't really a case of panic, but there was a somewhat serious problem in the Phoenix Suns' locker room before last night's game with the Washington Bullets. Guard Kevin Johnson, the key to the Suns' runing attack, had no sneakers.
By game time Johnson had his shoes, seemingly endorsed by Carl Lewis the way the Suns ran in their 142-106 win before 18,223 at the USAir Arena.
The win ended a two-game losing streak by the Suns, who have struggled of late to find the form that led them to the NBA finals last season. Last night's win was accomplished convincingly as Phoenix:
* Scored 81 points in the first half, the most points ever given up in a half by Washington. The previous record of 79 was set twice, most recently by the Utah Jazz in 1990. It was also the most points in a half by the Suns this season.
* Hit six three-pointers in the first half, a record for a half against the Bullets. Phoenix had victimized Washington for five three-pointers in a half in 1992.
* Recorded a team season-high 43 assists.
* Scored a team season-high 142 points, bettering the 132 scored against the Sacramento Kings in November.
"The effort was there," said Bullets coach Wes Unseld, after the team's worst loss of the season. "We were hustling to get back on defense -- that's what scares me."
And what should worry Unseld is the team's injury woes, which worsened last night. Guard Michael Adams, who scored a season-high 29 points on Saturday, suffered a possible separated right shoulder less than five minutes into the game. Doug Overton strained his right hamstring, and Rex Chapman hyper-extended his right knee -- both are listed as day-to-day.
Even if healthy, Washington would have had problems with Phoenix, which produced 59 points off the fast break. Cedric Ceballos scored 36 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and Charles Barkley had 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds in 22 minutes for Phoenix, which had five players score at least 18 points. Johnson, whose shoes were a late arrival from the team hotel, had 18 points and 14 assists.
"After [Tuesday's 97-89 loss at Charlotte] I told them that we were too good of a team to not be winning on the road," Phoenix coach Paul Westphal said. "I said to them to have fun out there and things would take care of themselves."
The Suns came out running, hitting nine of their first 13 shots and grabbing a 21-12 lead after Barkley hit a three-pointer (he was perfect in his four three-point attempts).
Barkley had 17 in the quarter, but Ceballos was even better, scoring 19. The two combined to hit 15 of their 18 attempts (83.3 percent) and score 36 points -- matching the total for the Bullets, who trailed 44-36.
At one point late in the second quarter, the Bullets were shooting 62 percent -- and trailed by 17. The Suns were simply on fire, hitting six of nine three-pointers in the half. Dan Majerle (20 points) was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the half, at one point squaring up from 30 feet -- and hitting nothing but net. The halftime score was 81-58, disheartening for a team that shot 57.1 percent over the first 24 minutes.
"We scored [almost] 60 points in the first half -- a good half for us -- and we're down by ," said MacLean, who was victimized by Ceballos early. "Those guys know how to get out and get easy baskets."
In the third quarter it was more of the same, as the Suns scored 23 of their 32 points in the period off the break. The lead was 113-76 at the end of the third period.
The blowout was a relief to Bark ley, who has been hampered with sore knees in recent weeks. "This has been a frustrating two weeks for me," said Barkley, who had hit 37.2 percent of his shots over his previous seven games going into last night. "It's difficult to play when you can't jump. If I can't jump and use my quickness, then I'm just in the way."
Barkley was anything but in the way last night as he and the Suns gave a show for the local crowd.
"If we play well and get everybody healthy," Barkley said. "We'll ,, be just fine at the end."
NOTES: Bullets forward Kenny Walker, who missed nine games due to a broken jaw last month, was cut near his left eye in the first half and required three stitches. He returned in the second half. . . Ron Anderson, whose 10-day contract expired last night, was scoreless in 10 minutes in his last game. Andrew Gaze, who will sign a 10-day contract today, watched in street clothes.