Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Washington Bullets wasted a 43-point effort by Larry Wright tonight when they couldn't match the fourth quarter firepower of the Indiana Pacers.
The Pacers got 22 of their last 35 points from Adrian Dantley, Dan Roundfield and John Williamson to offset Wright's marvelous performance and escape with a 136-127 victory.
Bullet coach Dick Motta criticized the officiating, calling the game "a circus".
"Did they lost control?" he said. "How could they lose control of something they never had control of in the first place?"
Motta was upset by Indiana's advantage at the foul line (the Pacers got 48 free throws, making 40; the Bullets made 25 of 33) and a series of walking calls on Bob Dandridge late in the game that prevented Washington from rallying.
But even better officiating wouldn't have stopped Indiana tonight. The Bullets decided to force a fast pace and the Pacers returned the favor of shooting their opponents out of the gym.
Everywhere the Bullets looked, a different Pacer was doing the scoring. Dantley ended with 34 points, Williamson 35, Roundfield 20 and Mike Bantom 16.
Wright was the only reason the Bullets were in the game as late as the middle of the fourth quarter. He made an incredible 18 of 20 field goals, missing shots in the first and fourth quarters. In between, he made eight straight baskets after beginning with a seven-for-seven spurt.
Just as impressively, he was stealing balls and leading the Bullet fastbreak en route to his career high in points.
"It's a shame to waste an effort like that," said Motta. "He played so very well."
That couldn't be said about most of his teammates. Elvin Hayes, who fouled out once last year, did so for the second times in three games this season and scored only nine points in 24 minutes.
Guard Tom Henderson made only four of 15 shots. Mitch Kupchak shot well (seven for 13) but had turnover problems and didn't provide his usual spark. Only Dandridge, who had 16 points in the second half and did a fine defensive job on Dantley after intermission, gave Wright some help.
The Bullets began the descent toward their second loss in three games, and first against the Pacers, when backup center Dave Robisch hit a 10-footer to put the Pacers ahead for good, 114-112.
Indiana helf onto its small lead until three minutes were left. Dantley, who had 20 points in the first half but only six more until this juncture, was called for an offensive foul. But Dandridge missed a 10-footer and Dentley came back to make a leaning twisting eight-foot shot that put the Pacers up by four.
Dandridge then was called for walking, which nullified a layup and that led to a layup by Roundfield that all but insured the victory.
"Maybe Dandridge walked," said Motta, "but it would be hard to convince me. If they don't call it, then the basket is good and maybe it's a three-point play."
Motta and Wes Unseld were called for technicals in the first half and Indiana assistant Jerry Oliver picked up one in the last half.
Those weren't enought to curb the rough play which helped send Dantley to the foul line 17 times. He made 14 free throws to pull his game average up to almost 30 points this season.
"I really had the team up for this one," said Dantley. "The Bullets had a chance to get me and didn't do it last summer and I wanted to show them they made a mistake."
Dantley's 11-for-18 shooting was one reason the Pacers hit 51 per cent from the floor.
"People think we are going to roll over for them," said Dantley. "Everyone thinks we are going to finish last. But we are going to surprise them If people want to run with us like the Bullets, great. We will match them."
It was a lesson Motta learned all too well."
"There are only going to be a few times this season that you play this well and lose and feel lousy afterwards," he said. "This is one of them."