The Washington Bullets, teetering on the brink, manhandled the Boston Celtics tonight, 118-107.
The victory snapped a six-game Washington losing streak and gave the Bullets a much-needed boost in confidence.
"We looked like the Bullets of the last couple of years," said forward Elvin Hayes. "We were running, filling the lanes, getting good shots, controlling the boards and everything. We needed a game like this very badly."
"There's no doubt that we've been struggling," Coach Dick Motta said. "There's been heavy tension around us for quite awhile."
The bullets got 25 points from both Hayes and Bobby Dandridge and a supurb 17-point, 19-rebound, six-assis game from Wes Unseld.
Reserve Roger Phegley scored 16 points in 15 minutes of play and twice provided the spark when the Bullets were starting to bog down.
The Bullets, who have been having problems scoring, put on an incredible shooting display in the first quarter tonight.They shot 76 percent that period and made their last 14 shots. All five starters contributed.
Kevin Grevey and Dandridge each made four straight baskets, Hayes three, Unseld two and Jim Cleamons one.
That stretch, in which the Bullets banged in shots off the glass from 20 feet and spun balls in while falling down, enabled them to go from a 12-4 deficit to a 34-23 lead.
They increased the advantage to 16 points late in the second period when reserves Phegley and Larry Wright added two baskets and two assists as the Bullets rolled to a 53-37 lead.
They led, 61-49, at the half.
The Celtics played without all-star center Dave Cowens, who missed his second straight game with a bruised foot.
They missed him dearly.
Without him, Boston was outrebounded, 55-35, and lacked cohesiveness at both ends of the court.
"They weren't on their game tonight," Motta said after the Celtics lost at the Boston Garden for only the fourth time in 25 games this season.
"They hustled, but their shots just weren't going in. Not having Cowens makes a big difference to that team."
With the game slipping away and the Celtics' 17 sellout crowd of 15,320 this season pleading for something good to happen, Boston Coach Bill Fitch yanked all five starters with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third period. His reserves, M. l. cArr, Eric Fernsten, Jeff Judkins, Don Chaney and Gerald Henderson, almost got them back in the game.
That group pressed all over the court, dove for loose balls and was able to rattle the Bullets.
The Celtics forced five straight turnovers at the end of the quarter, two of them five-second calls against the Bullets when they couldn't get the ball inbounds.
That closed the gap to 88-80 going into the final quarter.
A layup by Rick Robey, subbing for Cowens, a fast-break basket by Larry Bird and two free throws by Nate Archibald got the Celtics to 94-92 with 7:57 to play.
Then Phegley took over. He scored a fast-break basket, and, after a Bird miss, canned a baseline jump shot to get the Bullet lead back to six, 98-92.
Archibald made two more free throws to cut the advantage to four, but Dandridge made his first successful three-point shot of the season and Phegley scored two more fast-break baskets in a 7-0 Bullet spurt that gave the visitors a 105-94 lead with 4:49 to play.
By that time, the Celtics had run out of breath.
The Bullets received a scare in the first half when Hayes ruptured a blood vessel in his right leg near the ankle and had to return to the dressing room for first aid. He returned and, although in pain, kept forcing the play inside.
After the game Hayes said his leg was still sore. His availability for Sunday's game against the Golden State Warriors is uncertain.