Bullet Coach Dick Motta called it 'a three-ring circus out there. They should have put up a tent and sold peanuts."
New Jersey Net ringmaster Kevin Loughery and his main act, Kevin Porter, certainly put on a spectacular show yesterday in Capital Centre. But Motta hardly enjoyed any part of Washington's 118-104 loss, the second time the once-pathetic Nets have whipped the Bullets at home this season.
With Loughery working harder along the sidelines than some of the players did on the court and Porter, the ex-Bullet who delights in embarrassing his former teammates, performing magic tricks with the basketball in the fourth quarter, the game turned out much brighter for the Nets than the weather on a dreary Easter afternoon.
Don't mistake this New Jersy club for the one that once had a 3-16 record and an embarrassing 16-game losing streak earlier in the season. The Nets have won eight of 15 this month and Loughery says he'd love 'to start the season over with these players. We'd be in the playoffs."
Porter who had 27 points and 14 assists, and John Williamson, who added 24 points, have been the key additions to the club since November that have turned the Nets' fortunes around. Toss in other newcomers like reserve guard Eddie Jordan and staring forward Wilson Washington and Loughery finally has enough talent to compete with the better NBA teams.
The Nets use all types of zones, which aren't sipposed to be legal in the NBA, and give opponents fits with them.
The Bullets managed to solve them often enough to win at New Jersey Friday night, but yesterday they seldom could penetrate for inside shots and wound up making only 21 percent of their 33 last-period attempts.
With the Nets shooting 63 percent over that same span, Washington had no chance to rally once New Jersey took a 10-point lead midway through the quarter. The Bullets got the disadvantage down to six at one point, but Porter simply took over and wrapped up his club's 22nd victory equaling last season's total.
"I love Washington and I wish I was still playing here," Porter said. Bullet fans yesterday probably wished they still had him. Bullet playmaker Tom Henderson missed all nine of his shots and had only one point while adding seven assists.
In December, when the Nets beat Washington on another dark Sunday, Porter turned in a 30-point, 17-assist effort. This latest spectacular was almost as impressive, but Porter didn't need to do as much.
With Williamson scoring well and center George Johnson (15 points, 18 rebounds, five assists, five steals, seven blocks) playing like All-World, the Bullets didn't know which player to stop first.
Washington got 25 points each from Elvin Hayes, Mitch Kupchak and Kevin Grevey. Wes Unseld contributed 24 rebounds, including 16 in the first half to tie a Capital Centre record. Their efforts were nullified by 20 turnovers, sporadic hustle and better play from the Nets.
The Bullets looked tired. It was their third game in a row and fourth in five nights and Motta said he dreaded "what was going to happen from the minute I got up this morning and saw how miserable it was outside. We were ripe to get beat."
Porter made sure Motta's prophecy came true. After Wilson Washington, who tied his career high with 16 points, helped stake the Nets to a 95-86 lead with some strong rebounding early in the fourth quarter, Porter took command.
When the Bullets made a run and cut the margin to 105-99, Porter responded with a baseline drive for two points past Charlie Johnson. Then he finished off a fast break with a beautiful feed to George Johnson, who dunked two more. After two foul shots by the Nets' Johnson, Porter zipped down the lane for a layup and the Nets were ahead, 113-99.
And for a grand finale, he added a rare long-range jumper and another layup just before the end. He finished with 14 points in the period and made 12 of 21 shots for the game.
About the only satisfaction Motta got came in the fourth period, when referee Jake O'Donnell finally gave New Jersey a warning for playing a zone. Motta had been asking for such a warning all game, "and then when I get one, it didn't matter," he said.
The loss snapped a four-game Washington winning streak and kept alive the hopes of the New York Knicks, who are trying to beat out the Bullets for third spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
"We lose three home games in seven days," Motta said. "That's how you keep somebody like the Knicks in it. Looks like we'll go down to the wire, and it shouldn't have to be that way."