Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
As soon as Larry Wright limped off the Capital Center floor last night with a severly sprained foot, Bullet teammate Charles Johnson decided he better come into the game prepared to score some points.
"With Larry gone," Johnson said, "someone had to take up his scoring slack. So I figured it better be me."
Johnson produced 24 points as Washington pulled away to a 119-99 triumph over the undermanned Detroit Pistons. With Wright out of the lineup for at least seven to 10 days, Johnson is going to have to continue to play just as well if the 4-0 Bullets are to remain undefeated much longer.
"We've been getting equal contribution from the back court, centers with Larry gone the guards could slip and forwards," Johnson said, "But a little. If I can score more, I can equal things out. I wanted more playing time and being a scavenger by nature, I'll take these minutes. But I didn't want them this way."
Wright's injury was particularly damaging since the third-year guard was off to such a fine start this season. If Detroit's Ben Poquette had been able to make a simple two-foot shot with 10 seconds left in the first quarter. Wright would never have been involved in the incident.
Poquette missed the attempt and the ball bounded to the right of the basket. Poquette, Wright and Mitch Kupchak went after it, with Poquett running into the two Bullet players. Wright was hit in the back of his foot and he tumbled to the floor in obvious pain.
Wright was helped to the dressing room, where Dr. Stanford Lavine placed the foot in a cast. X-rays will be taken tomorrow for broken bones.
If nothing is broken, treatments for the foot sprain will be started. But Wright will miss the Bullets' weeklong West Coast trip that beigins Tuesday at Portland.
His injury immediately had the Bullets thinking of last season, when a string of ailments crippled the club for most of the regular schedule. This incident marks the first flaw in what otherwise has been a near-perfect beginning to their NBA championship defense.
For a long time last night, Johnson was about the only Bullet who had his game in order. Although Detroit started two rookies and its head coach, Dick Vitale was sidelined with stomach problems, the Pistons were a pesky fore for the first three quarters.
Johnson, one of the league's better streak shooters, staked Washington to a 64-56 halftime bulge by making seven of nine shots, all from at least 14 feet.
He exploded again at the start of the fourth, swishing an 18 footer, then finishing off a fast break with his version of a layup - a medium range jump shot - and finally making another jumper to start the Bullets off on a rampage.
They scored 12 of the next 14 points and suddenly it was a 10-point game. Kevin Grevey (17 points) had two baskets and Elvin Hayes (17) had three in that spurt. Motta felt so good about the turnabout that he took Johnson out after he missed a shot.
"He was cooling off," said the coach with a big smile.
Washington again had balanced scoring, with six players making at least 16 points. And the Bullets' hot shooting had continued (51 percent).That combination of firepower and accuracy has been the major reason for their quick start.