Greg Ballard took one more giant step toward a possible permanent place in the Washington Bullet lineup last night with another superb all-around performance, including a career-high 27 points, as the Bullets beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 117-108.
Ballard also added a game-high 13 rebounds and four assists as the Bullets snapped a two-game losing streak and ended an exhausting three-games-in-three-days stretch.
Ballard has been on a tear the last four games, ever since Bob Dandridge was forced out of the lineup with a sore back, knee and foot. In those four games Ballard has averaged 21.7 points and 11 rebounds, and has presented Coach Dick Motta with an interesting dilemma once Dandridge is ready to return to the lineup.
"Greg has looked great every game he's started," Motta said. "He just isn't the type that's geared to come off the bench. He's a starter and he should be a starter in this league. He's durable and he's been doing everything for us. I'm just proud of the way he's played, but I'm not surprised. I've been happy with him since the day we drafted him.
"He isn't flashy, but he'll always be there doing the right things."
Ballard made 10 of 17 shots last night and was just as effective from outside as he was inside.
"I'm looking more for my shot outside because we're running plays for me," Ballard said.
When asked if he thought about keeping Ballard in the starting lineup when Dandridge returns and using Dandridge as a sixth man, Motta said he did not want to talk about that yet, "but that it is a valid thought."
Motta isn't the only one who is high on Ballard. Larry Wright, who played an impressive 31 minutes as the third guard, said, "We've got great forwards in Bobby and E (Elvin Hayes), so people can't always see what Greg can do. But I know. He can really play. p
"He's just a basic player," Wright said of Ballard, who is in his third year from Oregon. "He doesn't do any thing outstanding. He just works hard and does all of the little things."
"I am feeling more comfortable each game," Ballard said, "and I've got a lot of confidence, now."
The Bullets were in control pretty much the entire game, but the young Bucks, the Midwest Division leaders, made a real charge at the home club early in the fourth quarter.
The Bullets had a 16-point lead at the half, led by as many as 13 late in the third period and by 11 early in the final quarter.
But Milwaukee, led by wondrous rookie Sidney Moncrief of Arkansas, cut the lead to 93-89 with nine minutes to play.
Motta called an angry timeout and the Bullets responded after that with an 8-2 run, highlighted by two Roger Phegley jump shots, to close the lid on the Bucks.
"We were more in rhythm tonight," Motta said. "Three games in three days is tough, but we didn't play badly in any of them. We should have won two of the three instead of just one.
"We didn't have good play from the bench the last two games, but we did tonight."
Phegley snapped out of a horrible shooting slump with 20 points and both Wright and Mitch Kupchak gave the Bullets a big lift.
"We were running. That's the key," said Wright, who scored 12 points and had five assists. "I just tried to push the ball upcourt quickly. That's the way we played when we won the championship. We're just at our best when we run and push the ball upcourt quick when we don't have the clear fast break."
Junior Bridgeman led the Bucks with 27 points while Moncrief made eight of 11 shots and scored a career-high 20 points, many of them in spectacular fashion.
Moncrief is 6-foot-4 and jumps like David Thompson. He plays guard on defense, but posts up low on offense. He had one monster slam dunk after grabbing an offensive rebound and scored eight of Milwaukee's first 10 points of the final period when the Bucks were making their charge.
The Bucks were without their floor leader, Quinn Buckner, and their offense looked disorganized at times.
Wes Unseld had a season-high 11 assists and added 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Bullets played one of their best all-around games in a long time. They shot 51 percent from the field.
Ballard twisted his ankle late in the game, but said that it was not serious.