George Gervin put on a 41-point show at the Capital Centre last night that shot the San Antonio Spurs past the Washington Bullets, 111-104, and back into sixth place in the National Basketball Association's Eastern Conference.
Adding to the sense of loss felt by the Bullets was the news from Bob Dandridge, out 12 games with a leg injury, that after playing 22 minutes in this contest he may not be seen here in uniform again the rest of this season.
Although this was only the third loss for the Bullets in their last 11 games, it put them a half-game behind the Spurs in the race for the last playoff spot.
It is a race in which they surely could use Dandridge.
"It's just a matter of how much pain I can play with," he said. "Playing back-to-back games on it will tell a lot. After tomorrow night's game (in Philadelphia) I'll know a lot more, but there is a possibility of me being out the rest of the season."
The injury, first diagnosed as a pulled calf muscle, now is being blamed on a calcium deposit on the bone in his right calf, Dandridge said. The pain was evident as he made but two of 10 shots.
"I rested it for a month and it didn't do any good, so I'm back to the drawing board," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen."
Gervin had Bullet Coach Dick Motta at the drawing board all game long. Motta first assigned Kevin Grevey to guard the Spur gunner, but before the game was over John Williamson, Dandridge and Greg Ballard all had tried, unsuccessfully, to stop him.
"Gervin can almost carry that team by himself," Motta said. "I don't know how you can stop him unless you break the rules."
Gervin was at his best in the third period when he scored 14 points in less than five minutes.
Posting up on the right side of the basket, he made three straight shots over Grevey, two over Williamson and one over Dandridge.
When Gervin finally tired of this, the Spurs had a 71-59 leads, a cushion they used to carry them through a couple of dry spells in the fourth period.
Larry Wright and Williamson sparked a rally that got the Bullets back to 95-94 with six minutes to play, but James Silas, who scored 26 points, hit a 15-footer over Wright, then made two free throws after Wright fouled him -- following Gervin's block of Elvin Hayes shot.
A Wright 20-footer got the Bullets back to 105-102. But they missed their next 10 shots, eight on one possession when Hayes missed three times, Wes Unseld and Williamson twice and Ballard once. The result: San Antonio had snapped on eight-game losing streak with its first, ever, regular-season victory at Capital Centre.
The Bullets had five more field goals than the Spurs, but were buried at the foul line. San Antonio made 27 of 30 free throws, while the Bullets went to the line only 15 times and made nine.
Ballard led the Bullets with 28 points, Hayes had 25 and Motta had tried almost that many combinations of players in an effort to win.
Gervin and Silas can score, but neither is enamored of playing defense, so the Bullets tried to exploit that weakness by teaming Williamson and Kevin Grevey, two shooting guards, for a spell in the first half.
"We wanted to make Gervin work at the defensive end of the floor," Motta said. "The strategy was good, but we didn't hit the shots."
Williamson and Grevey made only one of their 12 shots the first half.
"We neded a win awfully bad," said Gervin, who appeared to play with more enthusiasm than usual of late. Normally, so cool that he appears disinterested, last night he was aggressive, calling for the ball and taking it inside into the heavy traffic.
"I'll do whatever I can to pull out a victory," he said.