Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
That smooth-working, forward-dominated team that the Washington Bullet brain trust figured would explode on the NBA this season finally showed up at the Capital Centre last night.
With Elvin Hayes doing things he hadn't done since March and Bob Dandridge outplaying Julius Erving, the Bullets delighted a crowd of 18,355 by overwhelming the Philadelphia 76ers 116-98.
"This is a big step toward our total team effort that we have been trying to get across since training camp," said coach Dick Motta. "For the first time a long time, we had intensity. It's what we've been needing and it was good to see."
Everywhere Motta looked, he saw the kind of performances he had been wanting from his club.
Hayes, who had been under fire for his inconsistent play, told his coach before the game he was "ready to play."
Then he proved it with a 26-point, 16-rebound effort that was by far his best of the season.
"I knew in the first three minutes he was ready to play," said guard Tom Henderson. "We needed that boost from him tonight."
Dandridge, who has been the most consistent of the Bullets, made Erving play full-time defense and it paid off. Although Erving registered one spectacular dunk, he didn't dominate the game with his 22 points and Dandridge was able to counter with 28.
Between them. Hayes and Dandridge hit 23 of 38 shots and had 24 rebounds. Erving and George McGinnis had 39 points but only 15 rebounds and made only 15 of 39 shots.
"I don't think anyone else could have done a better job against Dr. J," said Motta. "We neutralized him.
Last season, Erving and McGinnis combined to lead Philadephia to three lopsided victories over Washington, Henderson said things got so bad "it seemed Philly had cast a spell over us. But I think we broke it tonight."
Washington dealt the 76ers their first loss in five games under new coach Billy Cunningham by controlling the tempo - not too fast, but quick enough to keep the 76ers off balance - and by getting balanced scoring off percentage shots.
Six Bullets were in double figures, with Mitch Kupchak scoring 19 points after coming off the bench. Larry Wright added 15 points, 10 assists and three late-game steals.
They shot almost 54 per cent for the game, but made 21 of 33 shots in the first 18 minutes of the second half, when the outcome of the game was decided.
Washington exploded in the opening minutes of the third quarter. After holding a three-point halftime lead, the Bullets scored 14 of the first 16 points after intermission, getting baskets from all five starters in the process.
A few minutes later, they had a 17-point bulge. Dandridge and Hayes already had 44 points between them. And they had missed only four of 15 shots.
Philly closed to within six points early in the fourth quarter. But the Bullets streaked again starting with two kupchak rebound baskets.
After Dandridge had contributed back-to-back field goals, the last coming on a fast break. Washington was up by 13 and the game was all but over.
"It helped us that Julius was really never in the game," said Henderson, "Bobby never let him get in the flow."
Dandridge's strategy was simple: "I tried to make him exert himself defensively. I want him to pick up a couple of fouls and make him less aggressive going to the basket.
"We usually come out with the same stats. If that happens, you have to hope your team can win. You just can't let him get 40 to 45 points.
What Motta now would like to see "is the same kind of intensity tonight when the Bullets meet the pistons in Detroit.
"We have to start putting it together night after night," he said "I think we'll learn that. It's important that Elvin works at getting the offensive rebounds and the tips, because then his points will come.
"He was challenged tonight and he responded to it. That's got to make a coach feel good."