Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It was show time last night at Capital Centre and what a dazzling performance the Washington Bullets gave before 17,242 appreciative fans.
Led by ringmaster Elvin Hayes whose favorite trick was an unerring 18-foot jump shot, the Bullets so overwhelmed the New York Knicks that they were even able to showcase the quiet man at the end of the bech, Joe Pace.
Pace's two monster dunk shots late in the game, including one reverse spectacular that would have made Julius Erving proud, put the icing on a 123-103 victory so convincing it practically left Knick coach Willis Reed speechless after the game.
"By half I was very upset," said Reed. "The way we were going I knew we were going to lose."
Although the Knicks trailed by only a point at the half, the Bullets fulfilled Reed's prediction with a superlative third-quarter display.
Hayes was unstoppable during that period, hitting seven of his first eight shots and totaling 15 points as the Bullets jumped to an 85-71 lead and took off from there.
It was Hayes who unnerved the Knicks and got them scrambling. But his 27-point, 12-rebound masterpiece wasn't the only work of art in this one.
Kevin Grevey, starting at guard after two good efforts off the bench, had 10 first-quarter points to give the Bullets time to warm up.
Mitch Kupchak picked up where Hayes left off in the second half and crashed the boards for 14 points.
And Pace, who was told this week by coach Dick Motta that he would be given a chance to show his talents, contributed a career-high 16 points including 10-for-10 accuracy from the foul line. By the final minutes, the crowd was cheering his every step as he tried to dunk anything he could get his hands on.
It was difficult to believe this was the Bullet team that stumbled past Seattle Tuesday night. The difference, according to Hayes,was the flow of the offense.
"Once I started hitting from the outside and they had to come out at me, it loosened them up and we could work what we wanted to," Hayes said. "We played so well as a team, everything flowed. When you work to get open and you get the ball, you know things are going right."
The victory finally got the Bullets back to the 500 mark and it was the first time this season they have won two in a row. They have a chance to extend that miniature streak tonight against Kansas City in Omaha.
But the Bullets wanted to savor his one for a while, especially their performance in the third period.
They were ahead, 64-61, when things began clicking for Hayes, who was instant offense during a two-minute span.
First he banged home an 18-footer from the left side as Spencer Haywood watched from a safe distance. Then he took a half-court pass from Tom Henderson and completed a fast-break with a layup. Butch Beard fouled him and he sank the free throw.
The fans could sense Hayes was taking over and he confirmed their suspicions with another 18-footer from straight in front of the basket.
That put Washington ahead by 10 and forced the Knicks to call time. As he walked back to the bench, Haywood pounded his fist into his other hand in frustration.
"He was doing a lot of talking in the first half to me," said Hayes, who had a turn-around jumper blocked by Haywood. "He should have, he was scoring and going good. But he didn't say much after the half. I think we quieted him down a little."
With Hayes clicking, the Knicks had to loosen their defense. So Hayes turned feeder, getting an assist on one Kupchak basket during a spurt in which New York was outscored 10-0. Kupchak had eight of those points, mostly due to pure hustle near the basket.
New York defeated the Bullets by 26 points a month ago, but whatever chance it had tonight vanished early in the fourth quarter. Motta put in a unit of Pace, Kupchak, Hayes, Phil Chenier and Larry Wright and they quickly ran off 12 straight points with three of the baskets coming off fine inside feeds.
"We got things moving in the second half," said Henderson about the Bullets' 27-for-47 shooting after intermission. "Elvin means so much to what we want to do.When he goes, we go. He made a lot of good shots and that just opened things up."
Hayes, off to a horrible start this year, has scored 104 points in the last four games and pulled down 91 rebounds. Motta described his perform ance simply as "being in the groove."
Hayes put it differently. "I've been playing basketball for so long that grooves and all that really aren't part of my game," he said. "I just get the ball and shoot it. Once it starts going in, you get it again and shoot it.
"When that happens, it becomes a very simple game."