Forget about the Elvin Hayes-Truck Robinson "feud." It was the battle under the backboard between a pair of reserves, John Brown of Atlant and Joe Pace of Washington, that set up the winning points for the Hawks against the Bullets tonight.
Brown, in the game for Robinson, who had fouled out for the first time this season, hit two free throws with three second, left in the game to give the Hawks their first win of the season over the Bullets, 100-99.
The Central Division leaders now must regroup for a visit from Pete Maravich, Mo Howard and the New Orleans Jazz at Capitol Centre Saturday night.
Hayes led Washington with 24 points but wasn't a factor in the late going. He scored zero for the fourth quarter, sitting on the bench most of that period as a pack of Bullet reserves led by Mitch Kupchak caught and almost beat the Hawks, who had held an eight-point lead going into the last 12 minutes.
Kupchak scored 10 in the quarter, but it was a pressure jump shot from Phil Chenier with nine seconds left that almost sent the Bullets home a winner.
With the score 98-97 Atlanta's favor after Joe Meriweather's two free throws at 0:12, Chenier took an inbounds pass from Kupchak and shot in a 22-footer over Ken Charles.
The Hawkes called time with nine seconds left, then Armond Hill used almost all of the allowed five seconds getting the ball in to John Drew, who was Atlanta's top scorer with 24 points. Drew, trapped on the sideline, forces a pass to Brown, who drove the baseline and was fouled by Pace, who was in for Wes Unseld, who had fouled out on Meriweather with 12 seconds to go.
With all 6,721 fans in The Omni on their feet, Brown hit the first of his free throws, missed the second, then made the bonus shot for Atlanta's 100th point.
The Bullets after a time-out tried to get the ball to Chenier again, but the Hawks double-teamed him, and Leonard Gray wound up taking a futile 40-footer at the buzzer.
In the first half a John Drew and Elvin Hayes offensive show overshadowed the "reunion" of Hayes and old teammate Truck Robinson.
Drew, with a 21-point half, led the Hawks to a 53-47 intermission lead. Hayes had scored 19, many of those points off Robinson's guarding-on. The Hawks held the lead by as much as 11 points in the second quarter after being caught at the end of the first period.
Drew made 10 of his point in the opening quarter and Hawk guard Ken Charles added nine while Hayes was scoring nine to head the Bullets.
Robinson, who has been averaging 21.3 a game since joining the Hawks 17 games ago, was held to four points in the first half, all in the opening quarter. He sat much of the second quarter with three fouls from his attempts at checking Hayes, who was his usual aggressive self inside Hayes also picked up three fouls in the first half, as did Mitch Kupchak and Leonard Gray for the Bullets and Joe Meriweather for the Hawks.
Robinson had a hand in the first basket of the game, taking the tip that Hayes won from Meriweather and getting the ball to Drew, 3-2 who gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead. That lead ran to seven points with 6:58 left in the first quarter as the Hawks hit on eight of their first 10 field attempts. The Bullets were shooting four-for-nine over that same stretch.
Phil Chenier hit a jumper with 6:32 left in the quarter to start the Bullets on the way back. Gray's two free throws with 41 seconds left in the quarter gave Washington its first lead at 26-25, and the Bullets were up 27-26 going into the second quarter.
Atlanta fell behind by 31-28 in the first minute of the second quarter then hit a 10-0 streak that gave the Hawks a 38-31 lead with 9:06 left. Drew shot six of those 10 points.
With a couple of fast breaks powered by Armond Hill's assists high-lighting the play, the Hawks moved 11 points ahead with 5:12 to go in the half. Then Tom Henderson, in his first game against the Hawks since the Robinson trade, drove the lane twice for layups and Hayes got a tip-in on a second try to cut the gap to five with 2:53 left. A free throw by Drew and a full-court driving layup by Charles put the Hawkes up 53-45: Chenier's jumper with five seconds left made it 53-47.