Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Phoenix Suns were no match for the Bullets last night and the streaking Washington team now seems to be ready for bigger game.
Washington appeared to play only well enough to let the Suns and the 6,072 at Capital Centre know that there was no way it was going to lose the NBA contest as it coasted to a 99-89 victory.
It was the Bullets' fifth straight victory, putting them over the .500 mark for the first time this season. It also puts them in the right frame of mind for tonight's confrontation with the Cleveland Cavaliers in Richfield, Ohio.
Four of the Bullets' last five games have been at Capital Centre, and their success on the road has been somewhat limited - they are 5-13 away from home.
They are playing very well now, however, and seem capable of winning games many ways.
Last night, for instance, two of the sleadiest Bullets of late, forwards Elvin Hayes and Leonard Robinson, had off nights, scoring only 15 points between them.
Phil Chenier dropped in 28 and the bench came through with 47 points to pick up the slack.
The biggest lift from the Bullet reserves was provided by forward Leonard Gray. In 19 minutes he scored 13 points, his high as a Bullet. He added four rebounds and four steals.
Most pleasing to the Bullets, however, is the ability shown by Gray to pass the basketball. He has had a knack for knowing where his teammates would be and has gotten the ball to them at the right time. He had a number of dandy feeds last night that brought Bullet fans to their feet.
Gray scored nine of his points in the second quarter and Larry Wright added eight as the Bullets outscored the quickly sinking Suns, 25-17. The Bullets led by only a point after the first quarter, but thanks to Gray and Wright, had a nine-point half-time bulge.
Phoenix, deep in the cellar in the Pacific Division, has lost four straight and still has three games to play on a tough seven-game trip.
The Suns made only five of 21 shots in that second quarter and were never able to make up for that.
The Bullets steadily pulled farther ahead in the third period and led by as many as 17 points before the Suns started a brief run.
A drive down the middle by Dave Bing gave the Bullets a 76-50 lead with 6:40 left in the quarter, then Ricky Sobers got the Suns in gear. He scored 10 points the remainder of the period and got the Suns within eight on a quick move to his left and an off-balance lefthanded hook over Wes Unseld.
Robinson put in an offensive rebound and Bing two free throws to hike the lead back to 12. The Bullets kept the pressure on and led by 18 points late in the fourth quarter.
Gray, gaining prominence in coach Dick Motta's plans, says he feels his role is to come into a game and get things going.
"The best thing I can do is sit there and see what I can do to help when I get in," he said. "I don't expect to play a certain number of minutes and I didn' expect to come in and be a starter. We have a lot of good players here. It's a team game.I just come in and try to take up the slack."
The Bullets had a two-point lead at 32-30 in the second period when Gray demonstrated. First he put in an offensive rebound after mugging two Suns to get the ball. Then after Wright increased the lead to six points on a drive, Gray was fouled in the backcourt. He made both free throws.
Alvan Adams, who missed his first five shots, finally broke the Phoenix drought with a 15-footer, but Gray came right back with a great pass to Mitch Kupchak which got the rookie center a pair of free throws.
Playing a low post, Gray was working himself into position for a turn-around jumper, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Kupchak breaking toward the basket and flipped him a crisp underhanded blind pass.
The Bullets gained a game on the Central Division-leading Cavaliers and on second-place Houston, both beaten last night. The Bullets now trial Cleveland by three games and the Rockets by 2 1/2.