The people came out to see Magic, but the Bullets stole the show last night at Capital Centre.
Elvin Hayes' turnaround jump shot over Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with four seconds left provided the winning points for Washington's 103-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. It capped an all-around team performance that had a sellout crowd of 19,035 standing and cheering all night long.
The Lakers never led after the first six minutes of the game, but the score was tied twice in the fourth quarter, the last time at 101 with 29 seconds left.
Hayes drilled a baseline jumper over Abdul-Jabbar with 1:25 to play for a 101-97 Bullet lead. Abdul-Jabbar countered with two free throws and, after Larry Wright threw the ball away, Abdul-Jabbar made a sky hook to tie the score.
The Bullets called time, then ran a play for Bob Dandridge. His driving layup missed, but Hayes outdueled two Lakers for the ball, dribbled out of traffic and fired in a 12-foot turnaround over Abdul-Jabbar's outstretched hand.
The Lakers took a timeout and set a play, but the only shot they could come up with was a running hook by Michael Cooper that Hayes forced him to shoot high and harmlessly off the glass.
Hayes totaled 25 points, eight of them in the last nine minutes, and he furnished 12 rebounds and five assists.
Greg Ballard posted 21 points for the Bullets.
Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers with 24 points but the man most of the crowd was there to see on his lone visit this season, rookie sensation Earvin (Magic) Johnson, sustained a groin injury scoring a layup in the third quarter and played only 26 minutes. He spend the fourth quarter in the dressing room.
When he was on the floor, Johnson was effective if not spectacular. He scored 14 points, but he had only two assists, generally his specialty.
The Bullets, winning their fourth straight, moved within one game of .500 at 19-20 in the NBA race.
They won by outrebounding the Lakers, playing physical defense and moving the ball around on offense.
The Bullets dished off 33 assists last night to only 16 for the Lakers. Wright and Jim Cleamons each had nine assists and Wes Unseld matched Hayes' five.
The Lakers came into the game as the NBA's best shooting team, making better than 54 percent of its shots. The Bullets forced them into 42 percent shooting last night, 35 percent in the final quarter.
"We played smart tonight," said Wright. "We just went out and played basketball and didn't worry about making mistakes. When we did make them they were at full speed.
"They (the Lakers) were running two people at the ball a lot and we reacted to it and got the ball to the open man. That's one reason we had so many assists."
With Johnson not in the game, the Bullets' main objective was to control Abdul-Jabbar. They did that by alternating Unseld, Mitch Kupchak and Dave Corzine on the big center to wear him down.
Unseld picked up five fouls before the third period was half over and played only 26 minutes, but Kupchak and Corzine kept the Laker giant in check while Unseld was out.
Dandridge came off the bench with 15 points. Included was his 15,000th career point, making him the 30th player in league history to reach that mark.
Three straight Dandridge baskets midway through the second period gave the Bullets a 10-point lead, their biggest margin.
The Bullets easily weathered every Laker rush until early in the final quarter.
The Bullets led by 87-78 with 9:02 to play, but the Lakers kept scrapping.
Seven straight points, five by Jamaal Wilkes, tied the scores at 93 with 4:17 left and that set the stage for Hayes' heroics at the finish.
This is the Bullets' second four-game winning streak of the season and they should reach .500 for the first time since they were 9-9 Nov. 24, if they can beat the Philadelphia 76ers Friday at the Spectrum.