Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Elvin Hayes scored six points in overtime and contributed a steal as the Washington Bullets kept alive their slim hopes for a Central Division title by shading the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, 119-113.
The victory clinched third place in the NBA's Eastern Conference for the Bullets, who now will have the homecourt advantage in all conference playoff series except against the division winners. Any Houston victory or Washington loss gives the Rockets the division title.
Hayes scored 32 points tonight, including 17 in a torrid Washington first period that saw the Bullets open a 35-20 lead. They led by 17 points at the half, "one of the worst things you can do in the NBA," according to their coach, Dick Motta.
One of the best performances of the night came from an unlikely source - Mike Riordan, the forgotten one. Riordan came into the game in the last nine minutes of regulation, as a defensive measure.
Riordan was assigned to guard Bingo Smith, who finished with 32 points. After Riordan checked in and stayed in for the duration - Smith managed only two field goals.
Actually, the Bullets almost won in regulation, but Chenier's 12-foot jumper from the side over Dick Snyder played loop-the-loop with the rim and fell out. Gary Brokaw of Cleveland grabbed the rebound and called time with a second remaining.
Dick Snyder put the crowd of 19,548 in a playoff-style frenzy when he outran Phil Chenier to a loose ball and drove for a lay-up and a 108-106 Cleveland lead.
Hayes immediately went to work. He drove the lane and put up a soft five-foot shot: 108-108. Brokaw missed a wide-open layup, and Tom Henderson drove the length of the court for a spectacular lay-in with 3:16 left and a 110-108 Washington lead.
Bingo Smith and Chenier traded baskets before Smith's deep jumper from the corner was off the mark. Hayes hit a 10-footer from the free-throw line with 1:46 remaining for a 114-110 advantage.
Cleveland called time to regroup, and when action resumed, Hayes came up with what Motta described as "one of the big plays of the game."
Cavalier center Elmore Smith was trying to lob the ball over Hayes' head. Hayes leaped high, picked off the ball and the Bullets were able to kill off another precious 20 seconds before Riordan's 20-footer barely missed.
Then Riordan was called on a questionable foul after he and Campy Russell collided. "I wish the bleepers would go on strike," Motta growled, referring to the possible strike of NBA referees for the playoffs.