Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The undermanned Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of a lethargic effort by the Washington Bullets last night to hand the defending NBA champions their first lass of the young season.
Despite having to rely mostly on rookies and second-line players most of the way, the Trail Blazers were able to escape with a 104-102 triumph after the Bullets failed to mount any kind of consistent offense.
Still, Washington had chances to put out of the game. But a combination of poor shooting, and a bad pass, a highly disputed call foiled its attempts.
Guard Lionel Hollins clinched the victory for Portland with two fouls shots 10 seconds before the buzzer. He was not supposed to play but, despite two sore ankles, scored 11 points and helped stabilize his team's younger players.
Hollins got a chance to be a hero thanks to a turnover by Washington's Tom Henderson. The Bullets had the ball, trailing 102-101 with 28 seconds left. But Henderson made an awful pass inside to Bob Dandridge, Hollins picked it off and was fouled immediately by Henderson.
The Bullets, who trailed from the early moments, appeared to have tied the game with six minutes left when Mitch Kupchak, who had a fine night, stormed down the middle and dunked the ball.
The Trail Blazers began the game with Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas and Lloyd Neal on the injured reserve list and Larry Steele and Kim Anderson sidelined with foot problems. But Portland got a big boost from rookie Mychal Thompson, who scored 29 points, including their last two field goals, and center Tom Owens, who had 24.
Thomspon was 12 of 19 from the field and won his duel with Elvin Hayes. Hayes scored just eight points, taking only 11 shots. But he had 15 rebounds and two blocks. Kevin Grevey had 19 points for Washington and Kupchak 18.
The Trail Blazers, now 2-4, turned in an impressive first half when they grabbed a 61-51 lead. Their intricate offense was as effective as when Walton used to play in the post and they consistently beat the Bullets down the floor on the break.
Toss in poor defense by almost every Washington player and the Bullets' cold shooting and Portland could we have been up by 20 entering the second half.
When the Trail Blazers started playing more like humans in the third quarter, shooting only 31 percent, Washington still was unable to take advantage of the opportunity. The Bullets began missing almost every one of their wide-open shots, including the easiest layups.
In one particularly frustrating sequence, they took five shots, all from within five feet of the basket, but couldn't connect on any. The last was by Charles Johnson, who didn't have a Trail Blazer within 10 feet when he released his shot which bounded off the back rim.
Coach Dick Motta spent much of the game searching for a cohesive combination. He finally settled on Kupchak, Henderson, Grevey, Unseld and Dandridge after Hayes fouled out with 4:14 to go. This unit took advantage of noticeable Portland fatigue and gradually ate into the Trail Blazers' 10-point bulge.
Portland helped out by going almost six minutes into the last period before scoring.It seemed Washington had gained control of the tempo, but the Bullets couldn't make the shots when they had to.
"This is the first time that I've seen Thompson play," said Hayes. "I really liked him as a player. There's always a first time of course and then there's the second time. I'll be ready for the second time."
Washington will play Seattle tonight in a rematch of last June's NBA final round series. The SuperSonics are undefeated after five games and expect a crowd of around 20,000 in the KingDome for the contest.