Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The Bullets paid the once lowly New Jersey Nets a major compliment last night. To put away its pesky opponents, Washington finally had to resort to tactics that Coach Dick Motta usually wouldn't employ until the play-offs.
But the Nets performed at playoff intensity in Capitol Centre, so Motta had to move forward Bob Dandridge to guard before his club could pull out a 113-109 victory before 5,435, the smallest home crowd in almost two years.
Many Bullet fans evidently stayed home to watch the World Series on television. Some in attendance brought along portable sets; they were able to witness also what became a fine basketball game for this early in the regular season.
The Nets are this year's version of the Atlanta Hawks, a clawing, scrambling outfit tha utilizes multiple defenses, depth and relentless hustle to match up with the league's big boys. And with it, these Nets have more individual talent than the Hawks.
"They make you look bad," said Motta, an apt decription of how his team appeared for the first three periods.
But by the fourth quarter, Washington had adjusted to New Jersey's zone defense - supposedly illegal in the NBA - and the shift of Dandridge swung things over to the Bullets.
Dandridge shut off John Williamson, the Nets' back-court strongman who was taking advantage of Kevin Grevey's foul troubles early in the fourth quarter by tossing in 10 quick pointls.
Once Dandridge took over, Williamson was shut off and the Nets saw what was once a 10-point lead dispate into a four-point Bullet margin.
Williamson, who scored 25 points in all, fires up an air ball and then was called for three seconds in the lane trying to fake Dandridge. That turn-over came with Washington ahead, 109-107, and took care of any chances the Nets still held.
"We have a 6 a.m. wake-up call and I don't know if I will make itr," said Williamson, who normally doesn't critize anything he does. "I may not be able to sleep tonight. i should have shot the ball."
Dandridge, who slowly is rounding into shape after a training camp hold-out, played 30 minutes and totaled 19 points, including 13 in the second half when the Bullets railed.
He got plenty of help. Mitch Kupchak, playing center at the end. had 19 points (13 in the second half) and Larry Wright came in as a substitute to notch 13. Toss in 15 (and 17 rebounds) by Elvin Hayes, 12 by Wes Unseld, 14 bt Grevey and 13 by Tom Henderson and the Bullets produced the kind of balanced scoring Motta wants to see.
"They got a lot of young cats who justs go out and play basketball," said Henderson of the Nets. "They've also got a lot of good offensive players. They can hurt you."
For instance, the Nets get lodas of points from Williamson, Bernard King (28 this game) and Eric Money 19). They only need either a more prolific scoring center or big forward to turn into a legitimate league contender.
Neither club profited by the officiating this inaugural year of three game officials. Seventy fouls were called leading to 87 free throws (54 by the Bullets) and a game that lasted 2 hours 15 minutes.
"Three refs will work," said Motta "the system is sound. But tonight there were some calls that astounded me. They have to get consistent."
Between whistles, the Nets built a 98-92 lead early in the fourth quarter. But with Williamson shut off, the Bullets rebounded.
A driving layup by Dandridge, a fast-break layup by Kupchak after a Wright steal, a Grevey jumper, then a Dandridge field goal and Washington held a 106-102 margin.
Now New Jersey had to fould and Washington converted enough free throws - seven in the final 68 seconds - to go into tonight's game at Philadephia (WDCA-TV at 8 a.m.) with a 2-0 record.
"I didn't want to use Bobby at guard too early," said Motta. "It's a legitimate strategy move. We are out there to win games, whether it's now or April."