The fired-up Washington Bullets got a 34-point performance from Elvin Hayes and inspired play from reserves Larry Wright and Mitch Kupchak last night as they defeated the slumping Houston Rockets, 122-114, at Capital Centre.
There were no boos for the home team last night, only cheers from the 8,099 in attendance as the bullets came out fast-breaking and ran up 69 points in the first half, their biggest first half of the season.
"Everyone had the spark tonight and it was contagious," said Kevin Grevey. "When we're bad, we're all bad, but when we're good, we're all good."
Hayes made five of his first six shots and had 16 points in the first quarter.
The Rockets assigned Moses Malone to guard Hayes, who proceeded to run the Houston center into the ground. He scored many of his early points by simply hustling downcourt and shooting before Malone could catch up to him.
Defensively, Wes Unseld did a superb job on Malone, limiting him to 22 points, four below his average, and only 10 rebounds, six below his average. Malone made eight of 21 shots from the floor.
"They just weren't going to him that much," Unseld said of Malone. One reason for that was because Unseld was using his bulk to keep Malone out of his scoring area.
Normally Unseld isn't that conscious of blocking his man off the boards, but he said he is when it comes to Malone."You have to block him out because he never goes out from underneath the basket," Unseld said.
The Bullets played the game without forward Bob Dandridge who will be out for an undetermined time with an assortment of injuries including back, foot and knee problems.
Greg Ballard started in his place and turned in a Dandride like all-around performance.He scored 17 points, collected 12 rebounds and added six assists and four steals.
Those numbers are the kinds the Bullets have come to expect from Ballard, but they got unexpected boosts from reserves Wright and Kupchak, especially in the second quarter when the Bullets put the game away by moving out to a 22-point lead.
The reserve duo combined for 23 points in the period, 12 by Wright and 11 by Kupchak.
For the game, Wright scored 16 points and handed out seven assists and had only one turnover in 18 minutes. He left the game in the fourth period, however, with a sprained foot. The extent of the injury won't be determined until Monday.
Kupchak played only 14 minutes, but he made five of six shots from the field.
Kupchak and Wright played Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside in the second quarter and the Bullets steadily pulled ahead.
A 15-foot jumper and a three-point play by Wright increased a 33-22 first-quarter Bullet lead to 52-33 midway through the second quarter.
Back-to-Back jumpers by Hayes and Ballard increased the lead to 64-42 and the Bullets stayed in control the rest of the way.
The Rockets pressed the entire fourth quarter to add a little excitement to the game and got as close as four points, but the Bullets used the clock well and withstood the challenge.
Robert Reid socored 10 points and had six of his seven steals in the final quarter.
The Rockets scored 16 points off turnovers in the fourth period.
A fast-break move by Allen Leavell cut the Bullet lead to 118-114 with 30 seconds left, but Grevey sank a 13-footer and Jim Cleamons made two free throws to account for the eight-point margin to victory.
"we played better tonight," Bullet Coach Dick Motta said, as his team improved to 14-16, 9-8 at Capital Centre. "If we continue to have that kind of intensity we'll be all right.
"We moved well most of the game and if we keep doing that we're going to win our share of games. That's all I want this team to do -- pick up the intensity and hustle."