The streaking Washington Bullets withstood a 41-point fourth period by the New York Nets and came away with 99-83 victory tonight it was their 10th win in 12 games and moved the Bullets to a half-game of the Central division leading Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Nets lost for the 13th straight time, matching the longest losing streak in the National Basketball Association this season.
The Bullets got another brikliant performance from Elvin Hayes and they needed it. Hayes scored 22 points, grabbed 21 rebounds, blocked six shots, had three assists and two steals.
Coach Dick Motta sent his starters to the bench early in the final period with the Bullets on top, 73-53, thinking the game was in the bag.
Then Jim Fox started sneaking in for tap-ins and the Bullets started fumbling around.
Two free throws by Fox eventually cut the lead to 86-73 with 2:26 to play. Motta ushered Hayes back into the game.
After Bob Weiss threw a pass away, Haynes blocked Bubbles Hawkins' shot and deposited a dunk at the other end of the floor as his reward. Next he stole the ball from Hawkins and rammed in a dunk to give the Bullets a 12-point lead and quiet the 6,122 at Nassau Coliseum.
The game marked guard Tom Henderson's debut at a Bullet and of Kevin Grevey as a starting forward.
Henderson, acquired from the Atlanta Hawks for Truck Robinson on Thursday, arrived in New York earlier today, met with Motta this afternoon, then went out and played 11 minutes.
He made one of two shots and two of seven free throws.
"I thought he did a pretty damn good job." Motta said. Henderson seemed to pick up the plays quickly and move the ball well.
"I wasn't anticipating playing very much," the soft-spoken Henderson said. "I don't think it'll take that long to fit in, though. We don't have that many plays here. My job is easy. Wes Unseld and Elvin get the ball out and I hit the open man."
Rookie Larry Wright is still the starter, however, and Motta said he will continue to be until Henderson beats him out - if he can.
Wright shot three for 12 tonight and had only one assist in 12 minutes.
"I told Larry not to hear any footsteps just because we brought Henderson in," Motta said.
Wright knows he is on shaky ground, but said. "If Tom gets the job. I won't be that disappointed, because I know I can play the game."
Grevey, the 6-foot-5 second-year player from Kentucky, got his starting nod over 6-3 Leonard Gray.
Grevey had trouble in the first half, missing all three shots he took, but he scored 10 points in the third quarter.
Grevey ended up playing 23 minutes, while Gray played 22 and scored 12 points, making five of 14 shots. He, too, was tight in the first half and missed seven of his first eight shots.
Motta said he hasn't given the starting job to either of them and that Mike Riordan also is in the running.
The coach added that he might alternate starting Grevey and Gray, depending on situations.
"They (the Nets) started Chuck Terry and thought that was good for Kevin," Motta added. "Against a big forward I would have the tendency to go with Leonard. My mind isn't made up."
"I kept telling myself not to be tight," Grevey said, "but subconsciously I was. Even though I wasn't scoring in the first half I felt like I was doing something. I left a lot better in the second half."
The Bullets almost lost guard Dave Bing when he took a nasty spill in the first half. As he drove for a layup, Rich Jones and Tim bassett crashed into him and Bing fell hard on his head. He needed six stitches to close a cut over his right eye and he had a sore wrist. He didn't return to the game, but said afterward he was all right.
The game started out as if the Nets were going to have trouble scoring 50 points. The Bullets held them to 12 points in the first quarter and 28 in the first half, defensive records for the Bulets this season.
The Nets had lost their only remaining star before the game when guard John Williamson was told to rest his broken finger at least five days. There is a strong possibility he will need surgery.
With Nate Archibald already out with a broken foot, the Nets are in said shape. No team has a less talented group of players. It shows.