Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld turned in one of the most impressive two-man perfomances of their eight years together as Bullet teammates last night. They powered Washington to victory over the Indiana Pacers, narrowly, 120-119.
Hayes scored a season-high 38 points and collared 15 rebounds. Unseld scored his season high, 24-points, and hauled in 20 rebounds. So, the Bullets rebounded from Tuesday's embarrassing defeat in Atlanta.
The actual winning points were scored by Kevin Grevey, two free throws with three seconds left giving the Bullets a 120-117 lead.
Bob Dandridge inexplicably fouled Mickey Johnson in the backcourt with one second left. The Pacers' only hope of winning was for Johnson to make only his first free throw, then miss twice and the Pacers get the rebound. The bullets were in the penalty, so the Johnson had three chances to make two.
He converted the first one and purposely missed the second. He tried to miss the third one, too, but ironically, Johnson's high arching shot swished in.
It gave him a career-high 41 points and the Pacers a loss, only their third in the last 12 games.
Johnson led the Pacers from 12 down going into the last 12 minutes, scoring 17 fourth-quarter points, and the one time all night his team needed him to help, he couldn't.
Hayes, hitting turnaround jumpers with a Pacer or two hanging onto him most of the time, had 34 points in the first three quarters and the Bullets had everything under control. Then Johnson, the former Chicago Bull who went to Indiana as a free agent in the offseason, took over. Working mainly against Hayes and Dandridge, he made three three-point plays in the period.
He registered back-to-back basket-plus-free-throw plays midway through the quarter against Hayes and Dave Corzine, respectively, closing the gap to 105-103 with 5:45 left.
The Pacers finally caught up at 111 on a tap by Alex English with 3:29 to go.
A free throw by Hayes put the Bullets on top and Unseld tapped in a missed Dandridge shot for a 114-111 lead.
Dudley Bradley cut the difference back to one with a 15-footer, but Unseld scored again, as pass inside from Dandridge.
Johnny Davis drilled in a 20-footer for Indiana and after Dandridge threw the ball away, Johnson made a running hook over Dandridge for a 117-116 Indiana lead with 46 seconds to play.
With 22 seconds left. Unseld was fouled by Johnson as he tried to score from in close and he converted both free throws for a 118-117 Bullet lead.
The Pacers got a decent shot with eight seconds left. English's 10-foot jumper from the lane, but it was short and Hayes rebounded. The ball was knocked away from him as he tried to find someone to pass to and Grevey pinked it up. He was fouled by Davis with three seconds to play and made the winning foul shots.
Grevey finished with 18 points.
Hayes and Unseld garnered points in strikingly different ways.
Much of the Bullet offense is designed specifically for Hayes and his number is called at least 20 times a game. Unseld's number is seldom called. He gets his points by loitering around the basket looking for offensive rebounds or by getting feeds when someone else is improvising. He made 11 of 16 field goal tries and all but three successes were layups.
"I didn't get any points off of set plays for me," Unseld said, "but I was getting some nice passes from Bobby."
The Bullets, their record up to 23-28, play their third game in three nights tonight against the team with the best record in the National Basketball Association, the Boston Celtics.
Only 500 tickets were available yesterday for the 8:05 game at Capital Centre, the Bullets' last game before the All-Star break.
The Bullets demonstrated against Indiana that they can win with Larry Wright directing the show. Jim Cleamons picked up three fouls in the first 5 1/2 minutes and played only 12 minutes. For the first time since becoming a Bullet, Cleamons didn't score a point or have an assist.
Wright, playing 36 minutes, scored eight points and provided 11 assists.
Besides his 41 points, Johnson had eight assists, even rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot for Indiana.
The game marked the first Capital Centre appearance of former Bullet Phil Chenier as a Pacer. He played only seven minutes, but scored five points and an assist before a crowd of 6,968.