Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
As the Washington Bullets filed off the floor tonight with a 126-114 victory over the Buffalo Braves, coach Dick Motta had a large smile on his face and a message for his players. (KEY OFF)(KEYWORD)T"Good road trip, good road trip," he repeated over and over, referring to the end of a 15-day stretch that saw the Bullets win four of seven games.
The Bullets return to Capital Centre on Wednesday night to play the Boston Celtics.
"I was worried tonight," Motta admitted. "We hadn't practiced since last week. We ended 4-3 in one of the toughest stretches on the road I've ever had as a coach. I didn't think in my fondest expectations we'd do that."
The Bullets, and especially Elvin Hayes, came out breathing fire this snowy night. Hayes, who hit all six of his shots in the All-Star game Sunday, connected on his first nine tonight and finished with 35 points.
The Bullets sank 14 of their first 17 shots in the opening period, finished with a torrid 68 per cent and held an 11-point lead.
With Wes Unseld sweeping the boards and firing numerous outlet passes for fast-break layups, the Bullets opened a 22-point lead midway through the second period. Unseld finished with 17 rebounds, 10 assists and 16 points.
In the third period, Motta's worst fears were realized.
The Braves, with guard Randy Smith taking charge, scored 10 straight points during one third-period stretch and drew within six points.
Smith scored 16 of his 33 points in the period, including an incredible fallaway 20-foot jumper at the baseline with two Bullets closely guarding him. The ball nearly brought rain.
An unfunny thing happened to the Braves in the final period. They stopped passing Smith the ball.
The Bullets, with Phil Chenier and Mitch Kupchak providing critical baskets and Bobby Weiss coming up with two steals and a blocked shot, zipped away from the Braves in the opening four minutes of the fourth period.
The Braves cut the Bullets lead to 97-93 at the start of the final period, but Washington outscored them, 13-5, and took complete control.
Smith made eight points in the final period, four made in the final 40 seconds.
The victory ending the successful road trip was extral satisfying because it was accomplished without the services of starting rookie guard Larry Wright.
Wright become ill in Buffalo on Monday night and returned to Washington this afternoon for rest. His status for the Celtic game is not certain.
Chenier, who finished with 29 points and six assists, also was slightly ill.
"Being in all those different climates doesn't do much for your system," he said. "It's gonna be nice to go home."
After the game, the Braves announced that Joe Mullaney has been named head coach for the rest of the season, sending interim coach Bob MacKinnon back up to the front office as general manager.
Mullapey, 51, who's family will lives in Towson, Md., was named the Braves assistant coach Jan. 27. Reports have been circulating here that he would replace MacKinnon.