Anyone who doubts that Bobby Dandridge is still willing to put out for the Washington Bullets despite contract difficulties should study films of his performances the past two nights.
After a 36-point outburst in Thursday's victory over San Antonio, Dandridge picked up his sagging teammates tonight with a 32-point, 12-assist spectacular that resulted in a 120-106 triumph for the surging Bullets.
This was only the fifth time that an NBA team has recorded back-to-back wins over these Taxas teams and Washington made the most of the feat. With Philadelphia losing to New York, the Bullets enjoy a fat 5 1/2-game lead over the 76ers going into a fiveday break for Sunday's All-Star contest.
Dandridge gave the Southwest a wonderful illustration of why he will be playing in that star-studded affair. And the Bullets backed him with the kind of gutty performances that won them the NBA title last June.
Against San Antonio, they came back from a nine-point secod-half deficit behind Dandridge and Elvin Hayes. Tonight, they wiped out an 11-point lead in the third quarter with Dandridge popping in 14 points during those 12 minutes.
Much to Coach Dick Motta's delight, his team rallied with an ad-lib lineup that included Greg Ballard, Charles Johnson, Tom Henderson, Wes Unseld and, in the entire fourth period, rookie Dave Corzine, playing for Unseld.
"I'm just so darn happy for these kids," said Motta, who looked as if he had just inherited a million dollars. "By the fourth period, four of our top six players weren't able to play and we still pulled it out. It was a wonderful victory."
In those final 12 minutes, Hayes -- who totaled only 10 points -- was on the bench with five fouls. Unseld was hobbling on his sore ankle and Kevin Grevey couldn't move laterally because of a hamstring pull. Sixth-man Mitch Kupchak was in Washington, resting his Achilles' tendon.
The Bullets had plenty of injury excuses to lose both games on this trip. But Dandridge, once he smelled a chance for victory in each, refused to let the opportunity escape.
He got help tonight from Ballard, who scored 14 points and grabbed a career-high typing 16 rebounds (13 in the second half); Johnson, who popped in enough long-range bombs to register 16 points in the second half; Henderson, who thwarted Houston's gambling defense by adding 20 points, mostly on wide-open attempts, and Unseld, who jumped on one leg well enough to pull down 16 rebounds.
Unseld was also instrumental in wiping out Houston's major weapon, center Moses Malone. The wily Malone maneuvered for 17 points and 12 rebounds in the opening half to stake Houston to a 62-54 lead. Both Hayes (four fouls) and Unseld (three) had difficulty handling him.
But Malone was paying for every move. Unseld was pounding him and by midway through the third period, Malone was hardly moving. He had only four points and six rebounds after intermission and Corzine said he could tell "he was dead in the fourth. You can't play 48 minutes against Wes and not get tired."
Houston hardly looked inside for Malone early in the second half any way. The Rockets, who lost their fourth in a row, were content to fire from the perimeter and that decision was just what the Bullets needed to get untracked.
After trailing 76-67, Washington ran off 10 points while Houston went 0 for 8. Dandridge scored the last six in the surge to put his club up for good. Moments later, he added five points around two Johnson jumpers and the Bullets were suddenly ahead, 90-80.
Any ideas of a Houston rally were eliminated by Johnson, Ballard and Corzine, who were responsible for Washington's first 10 points of the final period.
"With Greg in there (for Hayes), we have a different look," said Dandridge. "We move more inside. I can be more active. And the way he was rebounding and Wes and Dave were working on Moses, I could concentrate on my offense.
Motta marveled at the way Dandridge took control of the contest. "He wanted it," the Bullet coach said.
Yet Washington benefitted almost as much from the play of its youngsters. Corzine has hardly been used this season, yet turned in a solid 14 minutes in this one.