James Silas wasn't scheduled to start tonight against the Washington Bullets, but when George Gervin came up with a sore back moments before the game, Silas got the call.
The Bullets probably wish Gervin had played instead, as the muscular Silas poured in a season high 35 points and the Spurs raced by the lackluster Bullets, 128-108, at HemisFair Arena.
San Antonio Coach Doug Moe decided that he wanted more speed and quickness in the lineup to pep up the Spurs, who had lost two in a row, so he had planned to start Mike Evans at Silas' playmaking spot. But when Gervin, the league's second-leading scorer with a 29.5 average, couldn't play, Silas was back in the starting lineup as the shooting guard.
The bullets had no one who could keep up with Silas as he scored 24 points in the first half and the Spurs never were headed.
The Bullets had planned to put Phil Chenier on Gervin and Kevin Porter on Silas. But when they found out Gervin wasn't going to play, they switched Chenier to Silas. They eventually tried Gus Bailey and Roger Phegley on him, too.
"Without Ice (Gervin) everyone has to look to score more," Silas said.
"That's all I did.
"We like to run against the Bullets because they can't keep up, and we were able to do it pretty successfully tonight.
"Our defense is really what did them in," said Silas.
It was the Bullets' second straight loss and marked the first appearance of the season of forward Mitch Kupchak, who had been sidelined with a back injury. Kupchak appeared briefly in the second and fourth quarters and made the first shot he attempted, a 15-foot jumper.
Because of the lopsided score, Kupchak also played the entire fourth quarter, scored six points and had two rebounds.
The Spurs played their usual pressing, double-teaming defense, but they also moved Larry Kenon, who usually guards Bob Dandridge, onto Elvin Hayes and put Mark Olberding on Dandridge.
The two Bullets scored 60 points between them the last time they played the spurs, two weeks ago at Capital Centre, but they combined for only 40 tonight.
The Spurs scored 36 of their points off fast-break opportunities.
"We played about like we did against Cleveland," Bullets Coach Dick Motta said. "They (the Spurs) looked a lot sharper without Gervin. That Evans is a real player.
"We were out of synch. They zoned us and we didn't adjust," Motta added. "This was the hardest I've seen San Antonio play from beginning to end in a long time."
"We just never got into the game," said center Wes Unseld, who had 18 rebounds and scored 11 points.
Dandridge led the Bullets with 22 points, while Phegley added 21.
The Spurs led by 13 points early in the third quarter, but the Bullets, behind 10 Dandridge points, closed to within a point at 75-74 with 4:35 left in the period.
They missed their next six shots, the Spurs scored 10 straight points and that was the last threat the Bullets made.
That 10-point San Antonio spurt was started by two Silas free throws and the last eight points, four by Kenon and four by Paul Griffin, were off the fast break.
Silas scored San Antonio's first eight points and the Spurs sped to an early 11-point lead, 21-10.
The Bullets made one decent first-half run at the Spurs after that and cut the lead to six points, 56-50, on a fast break basket by Hayes with two minutes left in the half.
The Bullets didn't score again in the half, though, as they missed their next seven shots. The Spurs came back with six straight points, the last four by Silas, to take a 62-52 lead at halftime.
Silas had 24 of his points by then.
Silas is a different-type player than the 6-foot-7 Gervin. He is only 6-3 and gets many of his points with his strength. He would much rather drive to the basket than stand outside and shoot jump shots. Six of his first-half baskets came off drives and he converted two three-point plays.
Hayes scored six points in the first period to move past Hal Greer and becomes the seventh leading scorer in National Basketball Association history.
The Bullets got into their first-half hole because of poor shooting. They made only 37 percent of their shots. Bob Dandridge missed 13 of 16.
The Bullets will play the Houston Rockets Saturday night at the Summit.