Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The streaking Washington Bullets, full of confidence and Mitch Kupchak's boundless vigor, beat the desperate and almost pitifully confused Boston Celtics, 103-93, at Capital Centre last night.
For the season's largest crowd (18-424) this was both a delightful and a slightly sorrowful sight.
Kupchak, Larry Wright and Bobby Dandridge - all new, reloaded Bullets in the last two seasons - were the delight. Kupchak, held scoreless for the first 34 minutes, erupted for 13 points in the last 14 minutes as the Bullets overcame a four-point deficit for their eight victory in nine games.
Dandridge once again paired with Elvin Hayes in a superb example of how two high-scoring forwards can not only coexist but complement one another. Dandridge had 21 points, Hayes 19. And neither had to take a bad shot to get them.
Wright, whose playing time has dwindled since Kevin Grevey (15 last night) got a starting guard spot, was a typical example of the Bullets' high morale.
He bounced off the bench to dump in his only four points of the night at the time they counted most - in the last four minutes as the Bullets pulled away.
The Celtics looked like a road show of The Sorrow and The Pity. In an outlandish attempt at a shake-up, coach Tommy Heinston started four surprises: Fred Saunders, Tom Boswell, Dave Bing and aging John Havlicek - along with overworked Dave Cowens.
"We've got to find out who wants to play," said Heinsohn. "We took great on paper (seven NBA all-stars). But paper doesn't mean diddlye. We aren't even consistent from one quarter to the next, let alone one game to the next."
Even the Bullets sense the Celtics' lost pride. "In the first half they didn't really want to play," said Hayes, uttering words seldom, if ever, said about Boston in the last 20 years. "They're really not that hungry.
"They're not the same ball club we used to play. The desire just isn't there. Cowens is still tough and aggressive though even he may have lost a little. But he doesn't have the help.
"They've still got the shooters, but nobody gets the rebounds for them to run. Somebody on that team has got to say, "Hey, I'm going to be the board man. The redhead (Cowens) needs help."
That was certainly the story of this game. Cowens went on one of his "Gimme-the-darn-ball" rampages in the third quarter, firing down three gorgeous hooks as the Celts (7-14) took a 72-68 lead.
The Bullets answered with a time-out and the re-entry of Kupchak.While the Bullets' perpetual-motion kid hit a three-point play in his first 1seconds, followed with jumpers, blocked shots and rebounds (a team high 12), Cowens faded, not scoring in the last 18 minutes.
"They just send in big guy after big guy," said the exhausted Cowens who finished with a Boston-high 13. "With some teams I can outman their entire staff. But this team wears me down. It's a humbling thing."
The Bullets final breakout came at a dozen blanks in 17 shots, the Bullets were both tired and content in victory.
"I'm willing to wait, wait for a chance to play," said Wright "if it helps the team."
"The Celts just seemed to collapse at the end," said Grevey, still a little surprised.
"When you gotta play three in three days, it makes the plane rides a lot nicer when you win the first two," said Dandridge, who has averaged 23 points (on 36-for-62 shooting) in the Bullets' current four games streak.
The Celtics, 1-9 on the road and beaten twice in 26 hours, were left in shock. A hoarse, troubled general manager Red Auerbach said, "It's a mystery. We goy big off-season steal in Dave Bing (15 points) for a third guard. And our top draft pick (Cornbread Maxwell) has played well. We thought that was abo ut all we needed with the team we had back.