Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Until Phil Chenier gets a much-desired first start of the season, he has to depend on one of his characteristic fluid shooting nights for satisfaction. Last night, he was satisfied.
With Kevin Grevey temporarily sidelined with a cut mouth, Chenier played 34 minutes and scored 25 points to ease the Bullets past the Golden State Warriors, 102-96, at Capital Centre.
Chenier had made only eight of 41 shots during the past three games, but he made 12 of 19 attempts against the Warriors despite the tight guarding of Phil Smith.
"You keep shooting and the shots will come your way," said Chenier. "You can't lose confidence in your shots and you can't rush the offense.You have to let the shots come to you."
Chenier has learned to be more patient with his bench role, an attribute he says comes "with knowing you are going to get your minutes."
He got those minutes quicker than usual last night, thanks to a Wes Unseld elbow that collided with Grevey's mouth with just two minutes gone in the game.
Grevey wound up with bleeding upper and lower lips. The upper-lip cut required six stitches, but Grevey decided he felt good enough to play in the second half.
Meanwhile, Chenier had staked the Bullets to a lead that the Warriors never could overcome.
The Washington breakthrough came in the third quarter with the Bullets ahead, 73-68.
Chenier made a free throw and then took Smith to the right baseline. Smith timed his defensive jump perfectly and had Chenier covered when the Bullet guard went up for the jump shot. But somehow he got the ball off and it swished in.
After a Smith miss, Chenier fed Bobby Dandridge with a fine pass for a layup. Dandridge was fouled on the play and made the free throw to give the Bullets a 10-point margin.
Chenier added four more points by the end of the quarter and Golden State found itself trying to play catch-up on a night when the Warriors decided to rely on jump shots, instead of inside shots, for baskets. It proved to be poor strategy.
Golden State made only one of four foul shots in the second half while the Bullets were converting six of nine. But rather than being a matter of poor officiating, it reflected the fact that the Warriors just weren't playing aggressively.
They did manage to make one run at the Bullets late in the game. They scored six straight points to cut Washington's lead to six, but Chenier made a jump shot and Rick Barry missed an 18-footer and the game was over.
Chenier benefited from Golden State's sagging defense. The Warriors decided to clog up the middle and give the Bullets the outside shot and Washington's guards responded with 41 points, including 10 from Larry Wright in a reserve role.
"We took what they gave us and I was happy to see it," said coach Dick Motta! "We didn't force our defense inside. We played smart and we utilized our bench."
Grevey was able to contribute 10 points, including six in the fourth period despite breathing problems caused by blood from the cuts.
"Kevin showed me something by coming out again and playing," said Motta."I left it up to him if he wanted to play and he said he could. He helped us because he allowed me to keep people fresh."
Motta admitted that Chenier eventually would become a starter this season - "everyone probably just feels he'll assume the spot" - but for the time being, he says he will stay with Grevey, who is one of the reasons the Bullets have been playing better basketball the last three weeks.
Another reason is the consistency of Elvin Hayes. Last night, he had 20 points and 17 rebounds despite heavy pressure from the Warriors' two big men, Clifford Ray and Robert Parish.
"Elvin is just playing intelligent basketball," said Motta. "He's getting better every night."