Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
Wes Unseld thought someone had to step out and do something to change the Bullets' recent home-court misfortunes. So he nominated himself for the role and put on a performance last night that was worth a belated Oscar.
Unseld turned scorer, pumping in a season-high 25 points and outplaying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the bargain. The Bullets benefited from this unexpected point production by outscoring the Lakers, 125-119, before 14,761 delighted fans at Capital Center.
It was the Bullets' 13th straight victory before home crowds of more than 12,000 this year. And the large turnout couldn't have shown up at a better time for the struggling club, which had lost four straight and six of the last eight at home.
The fans were treated to Unseld's best balanced display of what already has been an outstanding season for the 32-year-old, 6-foot-7, hobbled center.
He made 11 of 16 shots and pulled in 16 rebounds, one fewer than Elvin Hayes. Between them, the two Bullets outrebounded the entire Laker squad by four.
Unsell has been rebounding well all season. The difference last night was his decision to become more intent on scoring, something he and Coach Dick Motta had determined after a Monday meeting.
"They've been playing off him for a long time," Motta said. "For the rest of the season, he is going to be more offensive minded. We talked about how he used to score against us at Chicago and now teams are hiding people like Bernard King on him when they have five fouls.
"If he is down low and working, he also has a chance to get more offensive rebounds. It worked tonight."
On Sunday, Unseld had said that "somebody" had to pull the Bullets out of their lethargic pattern. He said then he was referring to Motta, but last night he took the job upon himself.
"When I play at the high post, I'm not going to score," he said. "I got down low tonight. He talked to me about it. I hope it continues, but Elvin and Mitch (Kupchak) and Bobby (Dandridge) all like to play low. We all can't do it. I've always said if I'm stationed low and can get the ball, I can do something with it."
The Lakers aided the Bullets by beginning the game with Abdul-Jabbar guarding Kupchak, a starter in place of the injured Dandridge. Kupchak took Abdul-Jabbar outisde and left Unseld down low to work against 6-4 Adrian Dantley.
Within a period, Unseld had 11 points and six rebounds and although Kupchak missed nine of his first 11 shots, he kept Abdul-Jabbar busy and away from the basket.
By the time the Lakers adjusted in the second half and put Abdul-Jabbar on Unseld, the Bullets had regained their long-missing offensive continuity and pounded away inside while the tall Laker and Unseld stayed at the high post.
Only the Lakers' incendiary shooting - 63 percent from the field - kept them ahead as late as three minutes into the fourth period.