Cliff Robinson, the only teen-ager in the National Basketball Association, scored 23 points in the fourth quarter last night and the New Jersey Nets handed the Bullets their worst Capital Centre defeat of the season, 122-96.
The 19-year-old Robinson totaled 27 points and Mike Newlin 20 as the Nets bolstered their slender playoff hopes with their third straight victory.
The Bullets blew a golden opportunity to enhance their playoff situation.
"This loss doesn't kill us, but it hurts," said Washington Coach Dick Motta.
The Bullets walked into last night's ambush only one game behind New York and San Antonio, which were tied for the fifth best record in the Eastern Conference. The top six teams make it to the playoffs.
Washington dropped to 31-36, to 33-35 for the idle Knicks and Spurs. The Bullets travel to Michigan to play the Detroit Pistons tonight.
The Nets improved to 30-40.
"We still have a chance at the playoffs," said New Jersey Coach Kevin Loughery. "All we have to do is put a streak together. Look at the Bullets. Three weeks ago they were out of the playoffs in everybody's minds and then they won six of seven and got right back in it."
This was the first meeting between the Bullets and Nets since the Roger Phegley-John Williamson trade.
Phegley played well for the visitors; Williamson flopped.
Phegley played 28 minutes and made five of 13 shots on his way to 16 points. Williamson had his worst game since coming to the Bullets, missing 11 of the 12 shots he took and scoring two points all night.
None of his shots were of the high-percentage variety, either.
It was one of those nights on which the Bullets couldn't get anything going and no one provided a spark.
Elvin Hayes, a 42-point scorer in his last outing, Tuesday, led the Bullets with 17 points. But he accumulated three personals in the first six minutes of the game and fouled out with more than 10 minutes left in the fourth period.
It was as good as over by then, anyway, the Nets ahead by 85-68.
Robinson, the rookie forward who left Southern California after his sophomore season, made only one of seven shots in the first half last night. But he put in all eight of his second-half shots after replacing foul-troubled Maurice Lucas.
Robinson maneuvered Hayes into fouling him twice early in the final quarter and converted four straight free throws.
Lawrence Boston replaced Hayes after the veteran fouled out and Robinson taught Boston quickly that this was not the Continental League, despite Robinson's youth.
Robinson went right at Boston with an assortment of inside moves and outside jumpers.
Robinson is exceptionally quick for his 6 feet 9 and the Bullets had nobody to keep up with him.
Things went badly for the Bullets from the beginning. They missed their first eight shots and didn't score until the game was three minutes old.
They fought back, however, and led by as many as five points, at 33-28, early in the second quarter.
New Jersey went ahead to stay on a three-point play by Phegley 4:28 before the half Phegley's layup and free throw on a foul by Wes Unseld put the Nets up, 40-38.
The Nets led at halftime, 53-47.
They gradually increased their lead in the third quarter and used an 8-0 rush near the end of the period to mount an 83-68 advantage going into the final 12 minutes. Newlin and George Johnson each had three points in that flurry.
Robinson, whom the Nets picked as the 11th player in the first round of last year's draft, scored 19 of New Jersey's first 23 points in the fourth quarter to increase the lead to 106-78 with 5:13 to play.
The crowd of 9,838 started booing -- and leaving.