The Washington Bullets turned to rookies Larry Wright and Mitch Kupchak last night and the decision won them a basketball game, 117-105, over the New Orleans Jazz at Capital Centre.
Struggling in the first period, the Bullets were kept in the game only by the hot shooting of Phil Chenier, and were down by five going into the second quarter.
At that point, Bullet coach Dick Motta called on Wright and Kupchak and the rookies led a furious charge in which Washington outscored New Orleans, 37-18, to take a 64-50 half-time lead.
The Bullets coasted from there.
Wright and Kupchak accounted for 22 points between them in that crucial second quarter with Wright getting 12. Each scored 20 points in the game. Chenier had 30.
Wright, playing his best game since he lost his starting job to Tom Henderson eight games ago, made 10 of 13 shots from the field and had four assists.
New Orleans played without Pistol Pete Maravich, the National Basketball Association's leading scorer with a 30.3 average. Maravich has the flu and hasn't played in the last two Jazz games.
James McElroy, a second-year guard from Central Michigan, usually plays alongside Maravich and in his shadow. Last night, McElroy was the one in the Jazz limelight as he made 14 of 24 shots and equaled his career high with 32 points.
The other Jazz guard was former Maryland star Mo Howard. Howard was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers but was cut early in the season. New Orleans picked him up waivers Feb. 18. Howard made his first four shots last night and scored 11 points.
Wright had not been playing well recently. He had the flu two weeks ago, and the inactivity hurt him.
Henderson played well during Wright's illness and won the starting job.Wright's confidence slumped. Last night, he came back to life.
"Boy, did he need a game like that," Motta said of Wright. "We needed a game like that from him."
Wright, in his calm manner, said he "just got into it. I just played like I know I can. I hadn't been doing that lately. I was never really in the games long enough before to get the feel of things.
"I hope this game does something for my confidence because I was down. I feel better now. Whatever I can do to help the team, I'll do."
"He's just got to play his game and know that we have confidence in him," Motta said.
"It was really beautiful tonight," Motta continued. "You know, after Larry had a great second quarter Tommy Henderson came in here and asked me to let Larry start the second half because he thought it would help Larry's confidence."
New Orleans coach [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Bayler was also impressed by Wright. "I know he was quick and could spark a ball club," Baylor said. "I just didn't know he could hit like that from the outside."
The scrappy Jazz didn't play badly considering they were missing Maravich.
"What can I say?" Baylor said. "We played well. We shot well. We did well on the boards. We just played a very hot team."
New Orleans made one last run at the Bullets late in the third period, scoring 10 straight points, six of them by Nate Williams. That cut the Bullets' lead to eight points, but Chenier scored four quick points and Henderson scored on a drive to quiet the Jazz.
Center Wes Unseld became only the 13th player in NBA history to pull in 10,000 career rebounds when he grabbed on Otto Moore miss in the third period. The game was stopped while Unseld received the ball and a standing ovation from the 11.660 in attendance. Unseld had a total of 11 rebounds in the same.
The Bullets will play their fourth game in five days this afternoon when they host the Phoenix Suns at 1:45.