Tonight, Coach Dick Motta had a better idea. When his Bullets lost a 17-point lead to Seattle Tuesday, he turned to his starters to try to salvage a victory. Twenty-four hours later, with another 17-point lead eroding away, he called out some different names.
He sent in reserves Mitch Kupchak and Greg Ballard, and they combined with fellow substitutes Charles Johnson and Larry Wright to halt the charge of the beleaguered Boston Celtics. Then Washington coasted to an easy 128-106 victory that still left a bad taste in Motta's mouth.
"The Celtics hit every shot they took when they were coming back," he said. "But we relaxed too much. We had stopped running our offense. We had to be reminded to play basketball again."
Motta called time midway through the third period after the Celtics had cut the 17-point deficit to three. Wright then sank five straight baskets and the Bullets ran off a 14-2 spurt that turned the rest of the game into gargage time.
It was a discouraging loss for the Celtics, especially after they examined the statistic sheet. They did a decent job on the Bullet front line -- good enough to win most games -- but were blitzed by Washington's depth.
Charles Johnson, starting for the injured Kevind Grevey, pumped in 28 points by hitting 13 of 23 shots after going two for 14 against Seattle. Wright finished with 26 points on 12-of-17 markmanship, including his final eight shots. Ballard, who got in for only five minutes against the Sonics, added 24 on 10-of-15 accuracy, and got 12 rebounds.
Boston had a right to ask, "what happened?" None of those three has played better this year. Each scored his season high (their combined averages had been only 22 points a game).
Motta needed all the bench help he could muster for this one.grevey, who shouldn't have played against Seattle but did anyway, stayed in Washington to get treatments for his hamstring pull. Both Tom Henderson and Bob Dandridge had the flu tonight and saw limited time.
"Toss in the fact that we got up here this morning at 8 a.m. and our (hotel) rooms weren't ready and we had to sit around the lobby for a couple of hours and I think we could have tossed this one aside." Johnson said. "But the reserves knew they better play well, and I think we did."
Johnson spread his production fairly evenly over the entire game. But Ballard and Wright took turns dominating the individual halves, with Ballard helping the Bullets race in front in the first and Wright making sure the victory didn't get away in the second.
Ballard came alive early in the secin front, 35-29. Working against Boston subs, he swished four straight jumpers, Wright added a couple of layups and the lead suddenly was 13.
The two combined for 21 points during the quarter, including a spectacular rebound stuff by ballard.
But Boston made eight shots in a row early in the third period and began beating the tiring Bulet starters down the Floor. Motta hesitated to call time with 3:38 left in the period, but after another turnover, he halted play with a 79-76 lead.
"Will you play basketball." he pleaded during the huddle. Later, he admitted his decision to send in Ballard and Kupchak was more effective than his words. "It was time for fresh bodies," he said. "We were dragging."
Wright, who thrives on quick-paced, wide-open games, was in his glory as soon as play resumed. The clubs raced around the court and there was Wright, pulling up for a long jumper or flashing inside for a layup.
He put in three baskets, let Johnson add a fast-break layup, then flipped to Ballard for another field goal before finishing off the foray with a one-hander and a layup off a Ballard steal.
The dazed Celtics called time, but it was too late.With only Cornbread Maxwell playing well (19 poitns), Coach Dave Cowens could not match the Bullet blitz.
"I knew with Tommy sick, I'd play some more," Wright said. "I felt we needed some offense in the third and I tried to shoot. We had been forcing the ball inside and passing up the jumpers. All we did was start taking those shots."
Ballard credited common sense for the Bullet surge.
"We used the starters a long time last night (Tuesday)," he said, "so I figured they'd be tired. It makes sense to go to the bench more. We were fresher than the starters and we just wore them down."