Kevin Grevey returned to the good graces of his teammates today with a 28-point performance that brought back much-needed balance to the Washington Bullet offense.
Grevey's out-of-tune shooting at the first two stops of this week-long Midwest journey had led to some grumbling on the team. But everyone was smiling after a 119-98 romp over Denver that was even easier than the final score indicated.
"I had thought a lot about my performances, especially against Kansas City," said Grevey, who had 16 points in the first quarter."I knew I had to play better, but that's one great thing about pro basketball. You don't have to brood for a week about how you play. You can come out the next night and make up for it."
Grevey had gone four for 11 in the loss to Kansas City, missing his last five shots. But today against a Denver team playing without David Thompson (step throat), he made 11 of 21 shots and added six asssts while helping generate a crisp fast break.
Bob Dandridge tossed in 23 points, 21 by the third quarter, and five other Bullets went into double figures as Washington ran its road record to 19-15, best in the National Basketball Association.
The Bullets' 44th victory -- with 17 games remaining -- also matched their victory total for the 1977-78 season.
With Philadephia losing again, the Bullets have a whopping 9 1/2-game lead over the 76ers in the Atlantic Division race. Philadelphia is finding itself in a struggle with New Jersey for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, leading the Nets by just 1 1/2 games.
Denver, a heavy preseason favorite to win the Midwest Division title, likewise is no cinch to appear in the playoffs. The Nuggets are vying with Portland and San Diego for the last two spots in the Western Conference.
They made it easy for Washington to end a two-game losing streak by making just 12 of 27 free throws and sooting only 43 percent. The hometown crowd was so stunned by their performance that boos filled the arena as early as the second quarter, when Denver trailed by 17.
For Grevey, who was in and out of the lineup in February because of a hamstring pull, it was the king of game he needed to shake loose from his shooting wees and rid himself of any pressure he might have felt in the locker room.
"I still am not in the best shape I could be in." he said. "With the hamstring pull, I couldn't run much during all of February and my legs aren't strong. I'm missing open shots I should hit because I'm depending too much on my arms.
"In a game like this, where we are getting the ball and moving, you can get loose and into a pattern fast.
"Sure, things had bothered me, but I didn't feel like I was putting pressure on myself. Anytime you don't play well, it motivates you to do better."
The Bullets had been getting most of their points lately from their front court players. But Elvin Hayes picked up three fouls in the first period and played only 26 minutes. His 13 points left a scoring void, which Grevey filled nicely.
Washington also got a good performance from Larry Writht, who replaced the injured Tom Henderson (ankle). Wright chipped in with 12 points and eight assists and provided the leadership Henderson usually supplies.
"I was pleased with Larry," said Coach Dick Motta. "We talked about what we had to do without Tommy and I thought Larry set things up when we didn't have the break and kept us within our game. We have to execute to win."
Denver never could recover from Washington's blistering start. The Bullets, with Grevey tossing in those 16 points, shot 68 percent the opening 12 minutes and built a 36-23 lead with the help of eight fast breaks.
The Nuggets struggled back, closing to five in the second quarter after finding their shooting touch. But the Bullets weren't about to let the entire lead evaporate.
They outscored Denver, 16-5, over the last four minutes of the half, with Wright hitting four shots and Dandridge three. Three of the baskets came off breaks, usually triggered by the outlet passing of Wes Unseld, who had 11 rebounds.
Denver was trying to take advantage of Wright's presence in the lineup by having its bigger guards penetrate and shoot short jumpers. But any time that strategy didn't produce points, the Nuggets had no one back to prevent the Bullets from running.
The second half was so lopsided that Motta could give Grevey and Mitch Kupchak much needed playing time. Kupchak, who has been struggling since returning from an Achilles' tendon injury, responded with a 13 points and six rebounds, his best effort this month.
"You have to give Denver a lot of credit for us winning," said Dandridge. "They never got into the game. All we had to do was play decent to win and we did."
Thompson practiced Saturday but reported to the arena today with a sore throat... Assistant Coach Bernie Bickerstaff's wife had a boby boy, his third child, Saturday... Washington is at home against Los Angeles Tuesday... Henderson will have his ankle X-rayed Monday, but probably won't play against the Lakers.